In California, 118 people died in 112 distracted driving crashes in 2018, according to the latest data from National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). The Automobile Club of Southern California reminds everyone that no life is worth losing to distraction and encourages all drivers to remain focused on the road ahead to save lives. While the month of October marks National Distracted Driving Awareness month, the Auto Club urges drivers to pay attention to the road every day of the year.
“Nationwide, nearly 3,000 people were killed in traffic crashes involving a distracted driver, contributing to the 36,560 lives lost to crashes on U.S. roadways in 2018,” said Auto Club Traffic Safety and Community Programs Manager Anita Lorz Villagrana. “There is no text message worth reading or sending when injuring or killing someone is the potential cost,” said Lorz Villagrana.
“Don’t Drive Intoxicated. Don’t Drive Intexticated.” is the tagline for the Auto Club’s ongoing initiative to end distracted driving. The campaign reminds drivers that the consequences of alcohol-impaired driving and texting while driving could be the same – deaths and injuries that are entirely preventable.
Distractions include more than texting though. Anything that diverts attention from driving – such as eating and drinking, adjusting the navigation, changing music, picking your next podcast, talking to other passengers, or talking on the phone – can result in a fatal crash. Despite what some drivers think, hands-free devices are not risk-free. Even with your eyes on the road and your hands on the wheel, you are not safe unless your mind is focused on the drive ahead.
Many drivers are guilty of a “double standard” when it comes to distracted driving. The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety’s 2019 Traffic Safety Culture Index found that while 96 percent of drivers believed it was very or extremely dangerous to text or email while driving, nearly 4 out of 10 drivers admitted to doing so within the previous 30 days.
To avoid distractions while driving, the Auto Club recommends drivers:
- Put aside electronic distractions. Never use text messaging, email, video games or internet functions, including those built into the vehicle, while driving. Stow your smartphone away, turn it to airplane mode, or activate “do not disturb” call/text blocking features.
- Prepare for your drive. Set vehicle systems like GPS, seats, mirrors, climate controls and sound systems before hitting the road. Decide on your route and check traffic conditions ahead of time. And please, finish dressing and personal grooming at home – before you get on the road.
- Stay focused. Do not let anything divert your attention. Be sure to actively scan the road, use your mirrors, and watch out for pedestrians and cyclists. If you have passengers, enlist their help as a “designated texter.” Ask them to answer your calls, respond to texts and program the navigation.
In California and all but two states, texting while driving is an illegal, ticketable offense. And in California, using a handheld cellphone for any reason while driving is also illegal. You could end up paying a hefty fine and, starting on July 1, 2021, get points on your driving record.
The Auto Club sponsored California Assembly Bill 47, which was authored by Assembly Member Tom Daly of Anaheim. The new law, enacted in 2019 and effective beginning July 1, 2021, means drivers caught texting while driving will receive a point on their driving record for cellphone distracted driving violations. Currently, the only penalty for a first offense is $20 and $50 for subsequent violations. When you include state and local penalty assessments, a driver caught using their phone for the first time behind the wheel will pay $160, and if caught again, they are fined $285.
For more information, visit AAA.com/dontdrivedistracted.
The Automobile Club of Southern California, the largest member of the AAA federation of motor clubs, has been serving Southern California since 1900. Today, the Auto Club’s members benefit from its roadside assistance, insurance products and services, travel agency, financial products, automotive pricing and buying programs, automotive testing and analysis, trip planning services and traffic safety programs. Information about these products and services is available on the Auto Club’s website at www.AAA.com and on the AAA mobile app.