People know driving intoxicated is bad, yet many still choose to drive “intexticated.” Texting-while-driving is among the many distractions that endanger motorists on the road every day. 

“A distracted driver, even one whose eyes are on the road and hands are on the wheel — is similar to an intoxicated one,” said Mark Peterson, public affairs specialist AAA – The Auto Club Group. “When a driver’s attention is diverted from the road, their reaction-time slows, situation awareness decreases and lives are at risk.”

Top 3 Risky Distractions

  • Cellphone use
  • In-vehicle technology
  • Passengers in the vehicle

Anything that diverts attention from driving – eating and drinking, adjusting the navigation, or picking your next podcast can result in a fatal injury. Over 22 percent of distraction-affected crashes involved confirmed use of a smartphone. This underscores that while smartphone use is most frequently blamed for driver distraction, there are many other causes of distraction-affected crashes.

According data from The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration, nearly 3,000 people were killed and 400,000 injured in motor vehicle crashes involving distracted drivers in 2018, the last year data is available.

“All it takes is one distraction pulling your attention away from safety driving for a second and tragedy can strike,” said Peterson. “AAA urges all drivers to pay attention and focus on the road anytime their behind the wheel.”

Sobering statistics

  • Looking away from the road for just two seconds doubles the risk of a crash.
  • Five seconds of reading an email or text is like driving across a football field while blindfolded.
  • Mental distractions last longer than you think and can cause a dangerous crash or fatality. Mental distraction can last up to 27 seconds after dialing, texting or changing the radio station.
  • New teen drivers are three times as likely as adults to be involved in a deadly crash.

Top Tips

  • 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. Also, finish dressing and personal grooming at home – before you get on the road.
  • Disable or stow electronics. 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 call/text blocking features.
  • 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.
  • Take the pledge to drive distraction free or learn more about distracted driving at AAA.com/dontdrivedistracted.

Minnesota Law

  • It is illegal for drivers of all  ages to compose, read, or send electronic messages to access the internet on a wireless device when the vehicle is in motion or part of traffic. This includes being stopped in traffic or at a light.
  • The law allows a driver to use their cell phone to make calls, text, listen to music or podcasts and get directions, but only by voice commands or single-touch activation without holding the phone. Remember, hands-free is not necessarily distraction-free.
  • Drivers under the age of 18 are prohibited from using any electronic communications devices, including cell phones – except to call 911 in an emergency.

Fatalities, injuries, fines and higher insurance rates can all be avoided by focusing your attention on the road when driving,” concluded Peterson.