AAA reminds drivers to focus on the road while behind the wheel in observation of April as Distracted Driving Awareness Month.  

Distracted driving behaviors such as sending text messages, interacting with passengers and eating remain highly practiced among American motorists according to a recent survey by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety.  The study also found a correlation between distracted driving and engaging in other forms of risky driving behavior including not wearing a seat belt, speeding and driving drowsy.

“The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that in 2011, more than 3,000 people were killed and nearly 400,000 were injured in crashes involving a distracted driver,” says AAA spokesperson Kaelyn Kelly.  “Shockingly, this number is likely an underestimate given the challenges associated with determining the role of distraction in crashes.”

Despite the danger, more than two-thirds (68.9 percent) of survey respondents reported having talked on a cell phone while driving at least once within the previous 30 days, and nearly one-third (31.9 percent) said they had done so fairly often or regularly during this time.

“Driving is a task that requires both awareness and concentration,” Kelly said. “Engaging in other activities that take your hands off the wheel, your eyes off the road or your mind off driving can have fatal consequences.  That’s why it’s so important to commit to minimizing distractions in the vehicle.”

AAA offers helpful tips to reduce distractions while driving:

• Put the cell phone down – texting, emailing or updating social media combines physical and mental distraction, making it especially dangerous.

• Plan ahead – Eat before you get in the car, program your GPS before leaving and have a passenger act as navigator. 

• Don’t multitask and drive – driving is complicated enough, so refrain from activities like personal grooming, writing and caring for children while driving. Pull over if you have an immediate need.

The AAA Foundation’s 2012 Traffic Safety Culture Index is a nationally representative, probability-based survey of 3,896 U.S. residents ages 16 and older. The sample is representative of households reachable by telephone or by mail. 

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