Funded through the generosity of and their members AAA FOUNDATION FOR TRAFFIC SAFETY
607 14th Street, NW, Suite 201, Washington, DC 20005 202-638-5944 • 800-993-7222 • www.aaafoundation.org
Illustrations by Jared Lee STOCK 962 © 2004
Reprinted 2006 Printed in USA
ongratulations, you turned the page. That is an excellent example of how you should always keep your mind on the task at hand—especially if that task is driving. Although driving seems almost second nature to many seasoned motorists, it’s still a skill that requires constant, complex
traveling on a high-speed interstate or
coordination between your mind and
a country lane, just a moment’s lapse in
body. Staying focused at all times helps
attention can have big consequences.
ensure that you—and those on the road
Today’s fast-paced world is ﬁlled
with distractions. Filtering out the
things that compete for your attention
can be challenging. But, as you’ll see,
be surprised to learn that distractions
keeping yourself focused on driving is
can come from almost anything that
critical for your safety. And, after you
makes you look away from the road,
learn some tips for reducing distrac-
move in your seat, or think about things
tions, you will ﬁnd that restricting your
other than driving. Even operating con-
activities inside the vehicle can make a
trols inside your vehicle can divert your
attention enough to distract you from driving safely. Whether
So, stay focused, stay tuned, and read on.
you are: operating a piece of heavy machinery at high speed; navigating across changing terrain; calculating speeds and distances; and responding to all the other drivers and obstacles around you. Putting one more activity in the mix—even talking to your passengers or changing a radio station—can be enough to make you lose control of your vehicle or fail to respond in an emergency. Everyone does it— and that’s not good
What are you doing?!?! These days, people are bombarded with devices that can help accomplish more in less time. You can make a phone call while you’re standing in the grocery line, write a memo on your laptop at the airport, or check your email in the middle of a restaurant. With people spending an average of about one hour and 15 minutes in their vehicles every day, other activities—from talking to the kids to eating dinner— often take place behind the wheel. Experts estimate that drivers are doing something potentially distracting more than 15 percent of the time their vehicles are in motion.
A recent AAA Foundation study shows that almost everyone reaches for something, adjusts a control, or gets distracted at some point while driving, which is one of the reasons distracted driving is such a big problem. Driver inattention is a factor in more than 1 million crashes in North America annually, resulting in serious injuries, deaths, and an economic impact that some experts say reaches nearly $40 billion per year. Most distractions are nothing new
After reviewing crash-report data and footage from cameras mounted inside the vehicles of study participants in two states,
So little time, so many multitaskers
Unlike the grocery store, the airport, or the restaurant, if you’re driving your vehicle, you are already multitasking. At a minimum 4
researchers concluded that it’s not only the new or high-tech gadgets that are creating the biggest distractions. Drivers today are getting distracted by many of the same things that distracted drivers 100 years ago—passengers, things that catch one’s attention outside the vehicle, and objects in the vehicle that move or fall over. Activities like eating, smoking, and reading often distract as much or more than high-tech ones.
People spend too much time driving distracted Eat/Drink
Lean/Reach/ Vehicle controls
Read/ Write Groom
AAA Foundation study revealed the percentage of time people are involved in distracting activities while driving.
The younger the passenger, the bigger the potential distraction
Dealing with passengers is one of the most frequently reported causes of distraction. Energetic teen passengers can be particularly distracting, especially to inexperienced, young drivers. Managing children and infants also requires special attention. Researchers report that kids are four times more distracting than adults as passengers, and infants eight times more distracting. 6
Different distractions, same results Quick quiz: What do eating a hamburger, getting into a discussion, and changing a CD have in common? Well, if you’re doing any of the three while driving, you become distracted in ways that can take your focus away from driving. That’s because distractions come in a variety of forms: physical, mental, and combined. cause you to take your eyes off the road or your hands off the controls. For instance, when you’re eating a hamburger as you drive, you may glance down to unwrap it, and even block part of your ﬁeld of vision as you eat it. Each of these actions distracts you, slows your ability to respond to changing conditions, and diminishes your control over the vehicle. • Physical distractions
take your mind off the job of driving. When you get into a discussion—whether it’s with a passenger, over a hands-free device, or a handheld phone— your mind can become absorbed more with the discussion than with driving. Sometimes you don’t even need another person to create a mental distraction—if you’re upset or thinking about that big meeting with the boss as you’re driving home, your body may be behind the wheel, but your head’s back at the ofﬁce. So, give yourself a break: Focus on driving and leave the other stresses behind. • Mental distractions
have both physical and mental elements. Think about what happens when you do something as seemingly simple as changing a CD while you’re driving: You have to get the right CD in your hand, get it out of the case, glance down to ﬂip the right side up, look over again to get it into the right slot, and press play. As you do all that, your eyes leave the road, your hands leave the controls, and your mind must coordinate all the action. For the time it takes to do all that, your vehicle is on “auto-pilot”—minus the pilot!! • Combination distractions
WHAT ABOUT CELL PHONES?
We’ve all experienced it: The guy next to you is yelling into his cell phone, irritating everyone around him. It’s so annoying, many people think it must be distracting, too—and they’re right. Studies show cell phones are a distraction, but past research hasn’t deﬁnitely determined just how much they divert a driver’s attention or how many crashes are cell-phone-related. Police reports list cell phones as a crash-causing distraction less often than tuning the radio, talking to passengers, adjusting the vehicle’s controls, or eating while driving. This may be due to the underreporting of cell phone involvement in crashes because of the stigma and fear of repercussions, and the reality that most police reports do not have a speciﬁc check box for cell-phone use. What we do know is this: If you are involved in a conversation, whether on a handheld phone or hands-free device, you’re risking a mental distraction that can take your attention away from driving.
You want me to pay more attention to being less distracted? Honest, it’s not that hard. You’ll always have passengers, controls, and things that suddenly capture your attention—but you can reduce the distractions around you. Be aware that distraction is a problem that affects YOU.
Of the distractions often cited in crash reports—adjusting controls, passengers, cell phone, eating/drinking, objects in car— think about the things that distract you. Raising your awareness of potential distractions and their impact on your driving can help you reduce your risk. Don’t touch that dial.
Adjust seat positions, climate controls, sound systems, and other devices before you leave or while the vehicle is stopped. Know how your controls work, so if you must adjust something on the ﬂy, you’ll be less distracted. Use presets for radio and climate control, or have your passenger assist you. 11
off before you drive, so you won’t be tempted to answer calls on the road. Keep it light.
Stop to eat or drink.
Drive-through windows and giant cup holders make it tempting to have a meal while driving, but you’re safer when you stop to eat or drink. If you can’t avoid eating while driving, at least steer clear of messy foods like hamburgers and tacos. Reducing your risk will be worth the time you spend. (And think what you’ll make up in laundry bills.) Same goes for smoking. Pull over to a safe place to make or take a call.
Cell phones can be a great resource for getting help or reporting trouble. But, whether you use a handheld phone—which can sometimes cause a physical distraction—or a hands-free device, talking while driving causes mental distraction. Your best bet is to pull off the road to a safe spot before you use your phone. (Be careful, because stopping on the road can be very dangerous. Find a safe area away from trafﬁc.) Learn how your phone’s controls work in case a call while driving is unavoidable. And practice good habits: Turn your phone 12
Whether you’re talking to a passenger, having a phone conversation, or lost in your own thoughts, don’t get wrapped up in emotional, intense, or complicated matters. Your job is driving the vehicle, and that must be your main focus. Plan ahead.
Read maps and check trafﬁc conditions before you leave, so you’ll be prepared for your journey. Use a passenger as your navigator and assistant, if possible. Don’t multitask and drive.
Driving is complicated enough—you’ll become distracted if you do other things, too. Don’t use the vehicle’s mirrors for personal grooming when the vehicle is in motion. Don’t try to read or write while you’re behind the wheel. Just drive.
Pull over to care for children.
Change the baby, feed the kids, and buckle them into their vehicle seats before you leave. If you need to attend to them, pull over in a safe place—don’t try to handle children while you’re driving. Help teens identify and reduce distractions.
The Beach Boys called it “Fun, Fun, Fun”: cruising along with friends, eating, playing music, and gooﬁng around. But when you combine these distractions with inexperience, things can turn to “Wipe Out” fast. New drivers face a big challenge behind the wheel; in fact, the Insurance
Teen crash risk increases with every passenger
Number of passengers
> > >
Institute for Highway Safety reports that for every mile they drive, teens are four times more likely to be involved in a crash than other drivers. Additionally, crash risk increases with the number of passengers. Parents can teach teens to limit distractions, focus on the road, and most importantly model safe behavior behind the wheel. Set a good example for your teens by avoiding distractions in your own driving. 14
Founded in 1947, the AAA Founda-
tion for Traffic Safety is a not-for-profit, publicly supported charitable educational and research organization dedicated to saving lives and reducing injuries by preventing traffic crashes. It is supported by voluntary contributions from AAA, CAA and their affiliated motor clubs, individual AAA members, AAAaffiliated insurance companies, and others. For more information and resources on distracted driving, visit the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety at www.aaafoundation.org
AAA FOUNDATION FOR TRAFFIC SAFETY
607 14th Street, NW, Suite 201 Washington, DC 20005 Tel: 202-638-5944 Fax: 202-638-5943