As National Distracted Driving Awareness Month begins, the Automobile Club of Southern California is launching a new, multi-year initiative that aims to reduce deaths and injuries as a result of cell phone use by drivers, in partnership with local law enforcement agencies.
“Don’t Drive Intoxicated – Don’t Drive Intexticated” is the theme of the Auto Club’s multimedia traffic safety education campaign created to make distracted driving socially unacceptable. The new public service announcements (PSAs) are designed to help audiences understand that the consequences of using a smartphone while driving are the same as drinking and driving. The campaign targets drivers who would never consider drinking a beer behind the wheel, and yet, regularly engage with mobile devices that dangerously take their eyes, hands and minds off the road.
The Auto Club recognizes the impact that more than 50 years of public education efforts against alcohol-impaired driving have had across the country. Those campaigns helped to achieve changes to alcohol-impaired driving laws, increased enforcement, and, critically, a shift in public attitudes and behaviors toward drinking and driving. Although much more still needs to be done, anti-drunk driving campaigns and related efforts have helped cut the number of alcohol-impaired crash fatalities in half since the 1980s, according to the National Institutes of Health.
“The Auto Club has made traffic safety a priority since 1921, working to make roads, vehicles and drivers safer,” said Auto Club President and Chief Executive Officer John Boyle. “Through this latest initiative, the Auto Club is committed to changing attitudes and behaviors surrounding the deadly problem of distracted driving, and we will continue this effort for years to come.”
New research released by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety finds that even though 97 percent of drivers say texting/emailing while driving is a serious or very serious threat to their safety, 45 percent admit to having read a text or email while driving in the past month, and 35 percent admit to having typed one. AAA’s sobering new message makes it clear that the consequences of both alcohol-impaired driving and texting while driving are the same – deaths and injuries.
Campaign messages will appear as paid public service announcements on local media outlets, on social media, at special events, in the Auto Club’s member magazine Westways, and in Auto Club branches. The messages will also be incorporated into continuing Auto Club traffic safety programs offered in communities throughout Southern California.
Distracted driving kills an average of nine people and injures 1,000 each day, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. It is the third leading driver-related cause of crash fatalities behind speeding and driving under the influence.* And these numbers likely underestimate the problem because most drivers do not admit to distracting cell phone use after a crash. The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety has conducted numerous studies regarding distracted driving that demonstrate:
- Drivers interacting with cell phones to perform tasks like texting or surfing the Internet are two to eight times more likely to be involved in a crash.
- Taking your eyes off the road for just two seconds doubles your chances of being involved in a crash.
- 59 percent of all teen crashes involve some form of driver inattention, and 12 percent of teen crashes involve cell phone use.
The Auto Club encourages all Southern Californians to eliminate distracted driving by following these tips:
- Put it away. Place your mobile device out of sight to prevent temptation.
- Know where you’re going. If using a navigation system, program the destination before driving.
- Pull over. If you have to call or text while on the road, pull off the road safely and stop first.
- Ask passengers for help. If riding with someone, seek their help to navigate, make a call or send a message.
- Be a good passenger. Speak out if the driver of your vehicle is distracted.
- Don’t be a distraction. Avoid calling or texting others when you know they are driving.
- Everyone should prevent being intexticated. Just as drivers need to pay attention, so do pedestrians and bicyclists. Never call, text or play games while walking or cycling.