CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. (WDEF) — April may be Distracted Driving Awareness Month, but it’s really an issue that impacts us year-round.
Technology can help us when driving, and it can hurt us too.
Driving isn’t a time to multitask. It can put you and others in danger.
“There’s no excuse to be distracted behind the wheel, when the potential cost is either causing a crash, or potentially fatally injuring someone,” said Megan Cooper, AAA. “There’s nothing that’s that important when you’re behind the wheel of a vehicle to allow yourself to become distracted by that, and not do your job and drive as safely as you possibly can.”
Cooper says in 2019, 3,142 people were killed in car crashes involving distracted drivers. That’s an average of nearly nine deaths a day.
She says we can do better.
“When we think of distracted driving, we typically think of cell phones,” she said. “And while that is a big distracter, those distractions go well beyond just using your cell phone. When you’re driving, anything that takes your hands off of the wheel, your eyes off of looking at the road, or your mind off of the task of driving, it is a distraction.”
Eating, daydreaming, putting on makeup, and other passengers can all easily distract you.
Not to mention your car’s infotainment system.
“While they are helpful in some ways, drivers still need to understand and educate themselves on what the limits of that technology are,” Cooper said. “So while they are helpful on the surface, they can become huge distractions. Because if you’re not setting all of those settings before you leave the driveway, you’re tempted to change those while you’re driving.”
Cooper says just because you’re comfortable with the tech in your car, doesn’t mean you should use it behind the wheel. And if you don’t know how to use your car’s infotainment system, don’t try to teach yourself while out on the road.
“Go through your vehicle book, or maybe talk to someone at a dealership that can explain what those technologies do.”
Also, set your GPS, and take care of your music before you start driving. Pull over if you need to.
“Even if you are stopped at a red light or a stop light, and you pick up that phone to send an e-mail, or do a quick phone conversation, we found through AAA research that even that short amount of time, even though it’s quick, you’ve put whatever distraction that is away, that distraction can still linger for up to 27 seconds,” Cooper said.
Don’t forget, many states have hands free driving laws, so even if you touch your phone while behind the wheel, you risk getting a ticket.
If you’re tempted to be on your phone while driving, Cooper recommends turning on the “Do not disturb” feature on your iPhone or Android.
That way, if someone calls or texts you, your phone can automatically reply that you’re driving.
“Your job when you’re driving is to make sure that you are looking at the traffic around you, that you are doing everything that you can to be a safe driver,” Cooper said.
You can also download AAA’s smartphone app for roadside assistance, booking a hotel room, or finding the best gas prices.
Just don’t use it while you’re driving.