AAA recognizes distracted driving awareness month with tips

AAA recognizes distracted driving awareness month with safety tips

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By DREW GARDNER
6 News Reporter

KNOXVILLE (WATE) - In recognition of Distracted Driving Awareness Month (April), AAA has released its top 10 tips to avoid distractions while driving. 

According to the most recent data provided by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), distractions are responsible for vehicle crashes leading to more than 3,000 deaths and 387,000 injuries in 2011.

"If you've ever driven form your home to work and you think 'How did I get here?' you've been distracted," said Stephanie Milani with AAA of Tennessee

Since the invention of the cell phone, it's never been easier to get distracted behind the wheel. Milani says that's especially true. when it comes to texting. No surprise there that it landed this year at the top of the distraction list.

"Even those technologies that are meant to make it easier when you drive and able to do social media it's actually extremely distracting because you're using your brain when you should be focusing on the road," said Milani.

The use of electronic devices are among the most well-known and common sources of distraction for drivers. Text messaging behind the wheel is one of the riskiest things a driver can do as it involves manual, visual, and mental distraction simultaneously. Any kind of cell phone use can be risky. There is a public misperception that using a hands-free cell phone reduces risk but research states otherwise.

Talking to passengers or even yourself can be another major distraction.

"You can be rehashing your day. You can be having an imaginary conversation or argument with your spouse, and it really takes your mind off the road," said Milani.

Food and drinking are still a major distraction as more people are eating on the go.

"If it's coffee. If you have on your work clothes. Even if it's water and you spill it or think you're going to spill it that can cause a crash," said Milani.

Rounding out the countdown are using your navigation system and personal grooming.

"Just the action of taking your eyes off the road can make you miss something," said Milani.

"Visual cues like a stop sign or in front of you, you see brake lights that may not register until it's too late if you're a little distracted with other things.

Officials say ultimately anything that takes your attention from driving can be a deadly distraction.

Here are AAA's top 10 tips to avoid distractions while driving

  1. Fully focus on driving and do not let anything divert your attention. Actively scan the road, use your mirrors and watch out for pedestrians and cyclists.
  2. Store loose gear, possessions and other distractions that could roll around in the car, so you do not feel tempted to reach for them on the floor or the seat.
  3. Make adjustments before your drive. Address vehicle systems like your GPS, seats, mirrors, climate controls and sound systems before hitting the road. Decide on your route and check traffic conditions ahead of time.
  4. Finish dressing and personal grooming at home – before you get on the road.
  5. Snack smart. If possible, eat meals or snacks before or after your trip, not while driving. On the road, avoid messy foods that can be difficult to manage.
  6. Secure children and pets before getting underway. If they need your attention, pull off the road safely to care for them. Reaching into the backseat can cause you to lose control of the vehicle.
  7. Don't use cell phones while driving – handheld or hands-free – except in absolute emergencies. Never use text messaging, email functions, video games or the Internet with a wireless device, including those built into the vehicle, while driving.
  8. If you have passengers, enlist their help so you can focus safely on driving.
  9. If another activity demands your attention, instead of trying to attempt it while driving, pull off the road and stop your vehicle in a safe place. To avoid temptation, power down or stow devices before heading out.
  10. As a general rule, if you cannot devote your full attention to driving because of some other activity, it's a distraction. Take care of it before or after your trip, not while behind the wheel.
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