Minimizing Distracted Driving

with Jeanette Casselano of AAA, the American Automobile Association

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, eight people are killed each day in distracted-driving crashes.

Jeanette Casselano of AAA, the American Automobile Association, explains how distracted driving can result in the same consequences as drinking and driving.

Posted on:

Mar 31, 2020

Hosted by: Tetiana Anderson
Produced by: National Newsmakers Team

Anderson: According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, eight people are killed every day in distracted-driving crashes in the U.S. Drivers who talk or text on a cellphone, even if it's hands free when they're driving behind the wheel, elevate the odds of being involved in a crash. Hello, and welcome to "Comcast Newsmakers." I'm Tetiana Anderson. The American Automobile Association is urging all Americans to make a commitment to safe driving because it could save a life. To explain more, AAA spokeswoman Jeanette Casselano joins me. And, Jeanette, thank you for being here.

Casselano: Thank you for having me.

Anderson: So, let's start out on a cautionary note. What are some of the things that make up distracted driving and what are some of the statistics behind what that can do?

Casselano: Yeah. You know, when people think of distracted driving these days, their mind goes directly to talking or texting on a phone. And yes, that is part of distraction, but it's not the only distraction. In fact, it's a small percentage of the overall crashes that are attributed to talking and texting. We do plenty of things behind the wheel that are distracting. Putting on makeup, eating food, talking to other passengers, yelling at the kids in the back seat -- all of this leads to distraction, and, you know, taking your eyes off the road just for two seconds doubles your crash risk.

Anderson: Wow. That's amazing. It's amazing that that short amount of time. So what are some of the best ways to avoid distracted driving, then?

Casselano: Yeah. Well, one of the things, definitely not talking or texting on your phone.

Anderson: Or yelling at other drivers.

Casselano: Or yelling at other drivers, staying calm. So, if you have a phone, put it away. If you have a passenger, have them be the person that's answering your phone, programing your GPS. If you're driving alone, program the navigation before you get behind the wheel. Invest in things like cellphone blockers. That's something that may keep you from the temptation of grabbing your phone. And just really just keep your eye -- Remind yourself to keep your eyes on the road and your hands on the wheel.

Casselano: So, we talk a lot about the smart cars that we have now today. They offer a lot of bells and whistles for us to stay focused, not worry about certain things, but aren't some of those things a distraction in and of themselves?

Casselano: Yeah. So, there's a couple of things we can talk about with smart cars. The first thing, let's talk about the in-vehicle infotainment system. So, that center technology piece that you can touch, touch the screen and switch from, you know, not CDs. We don't have CDs anywhere, but from FM to XM, and all those great things. Well, this is it. While you don't have the bells -- Sorry, the buttons, you know, so much anymore, when you program something, even though you think your eyes are still on the road -- you look away just for a second and come back -- your mind takes 27 seconds to refocus on the task of driving after you've completed a task. So, again, not just the cellphones. It's not just hands-free. Hands-free doesn't mean risk-free. It's also touching other things in your car, and a lot of these systems now don't have the simple buttons of cars 5, 10 years ago. So, it takes you a couple of screens just to find what you're looking for.

Anderson: I certainly notice that when I'm driving, so it's good to know.

Casselano: Sorry. You mentioned, also, like, the bells and whistles. So a lot of cars now today also have a lot of the assistance in the cars, driver assistance -- so lane-keeping assist system, adaptive cruise control, things like that. Those are all intended to help us be safer in the car, you know, reduce crashes and fatalities, but they're not there to drive the car themselves. You still have to remain an engaged driver when you're behind the wheel and ready to take over at any moment.

Anderson: We're not at driverless vehicles just yet.

Casselano: No, it will be decades before we see only self-driving cars on the road.

Anderson: You guys have a major campaign going on to call attention to distracted driving. It's got a pretty witty slogan, as well. Tell us about that.

Casselano: Yeah. The campaign is Don't Drive Intoxicated. Don't Drive Intexticated. So, right in our communities and our countries, we all know it's illegal to get behind the wheel when you're drinking and driving. It's a no-no. Well, what's the difference between getting behind the wheel and texting? There's no difference. You see a car crash. You wouldn't know the difference if the cause of that crash was a drunk driver or a distracted driver. So, stay off your phones regardless. It is not worth risking your life.

Anderson: It is certainly not worth risking your life, And, Jeanette, thank you so much for joining us.

Casselano: Yeah, thank you, and if you want more information on the campaign,'tDriveDistracted.

Anderson: Love it.

Casselano: Thank you.

Anderson: And thank you for joining us, as well. For more great conversations with leaders in your community and across the nation, be sure to visit I'm Tetiana Anderson.

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