Even a minor distraction can be a danger for drivers

We’ve all been warned about the dangers of distracted driving. So after perhaps a glance and verbal response to the latest text or maybe telling Siri to find a different song, eyes for the most part are fixed on what’s ahead and both hands still on the wheel. Really, it was just a momentary diversion.

Unfortunately, it apparently is not that easy to snap back to the road after your attention has wandered elsewhere, even if it seemed like only a moment.

Research from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety found that potentially unsafe mental distractions can persist for as long as 27 seconds after drivers use voice-based technology to dial, change music or send a text message. At 25 mph, drivers travel the length of nearly three football fields during this time.

So AAA urges drivers to put down their phone and avoid distractions when behind the wheel, especially now during Distracted Driving Awareness Month.

“Most drivers believe that if their eyes are on the road and their hands are on the wheel, then they are focused on the drive,” said Adrienne Woodland, a spokeswoman for AAA. “But research proves that there are hidden dangers when using a cell phone or in-vehicle technology. Mental distractions last longer than you think and can cause a dangerous crash.”

Almost half of 405 Michigan drivers — 44 percent — who completed a recent AAA Consumer Pulse study consider it very dangerous for someone to talk on a handheld phone while driving. Despite this, 58 percent admitted talking on a cell phone while driving within the past month.

AAA is committed to helping drivers curb the urge to engage in distracting behaviors behind the wheel. Any task that requires taking eyes or attention off the road and hands off the wheel can present a dangerous risk on the roadway. That includes changing the radio, programming navigation or even enjoying a sandwich.

It’s important to put aside electronic distractions and never use text messaging, email, video games or internet functions, including those built into the vehicle, while driving.

From 2012 through 2017, nearly 20,000 people nationwide died in crashes involving a distracted driver, and these numbers are underreported.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 3,166 people were killed in crashes involving distracted drivers in 2017. While this reflects a 9 percent decrease from 2016 to 2017, much work remains to be done. In the last six years, 9.5 percent of all fatal crashes involved a distracted driver.

As part of National Distracted Driving Awareness Month in April, AAA – The Auto Club Group and the Auto Club Group Traffic Safety Foundation are partnering with The Hertz Corporation on a campaign to get motorists to evaluate their driving habits and take a pledge to stay focused on the road, avoid cell phone use and minimize distractions.

For more details, go to AAA.com.

“Too many drivers use their phones while behind the wheel,” said Amy Stracke, managing director of traffic safety advocacy for AAA – The Auto Club Group and executive director of the Auto Club Group Traffic Safety Foundation. “Our hope is that by taking the pledge to drive safely, people will be more committed to staying focused on the road, knowing how easy it is for distracted driving to become a dangerous habit.”