AAA: Washington is one of the worst states for distracted driving

Apr 22, 2024, 6:46 PM

Photo: A driver uses a phone while behind the wheel of a car on April 30, 2016 in New York City....

A driver uses a phone while behind the wheel of a car on April 30, 2016 in New York City. (Photo: Spencer Platt, Getty Images)

(Photo: Spencer Platt, Getty Images)

April is Distracted Driving Awareness Month and to to shine a light on the subject, AAA Washington has teamed up with Safe Drive Club to launch a “Don’t Drive Distracted” campaign.

While cell phones appear to be the biggest distraction for teenage drivers, AAA’s Laura Ray said — the biggest distracter is friends.

“AAA Washington research found that when teens are only driving with other teens in the car, and again, that’s anyone under 20, that if they get into a crash, that the rate of fatality for everyone involved increases by 51%,” Ray explained.

Reason being? Teens don’t have a lot of driving experience. Loud music is another factor.

“And so there’s often if I recall as a teenager, turning it (music) up really loud, dancing around, speeding and in addition to that, phones,” Ray said.

Trying to manage a car, turn the music up or down, change the song, laugh, dance and teens just being teens can become deadly.

“We (AAA) are proud to partner with Ishika Binu and the Safe Drive Club,” Ray said.

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Binu created the online platform, Safe Drive Club, to encourage drivers to promise not to drive distracted after she was involved in a crash as a teenager. The goal is for parents and their teens to log on and take the pledge to help prevent distracted driving.

“I think it’s all about mitigating risk, right? When you’re in the car, anything can be distracting … anything,” Ray said. “I rely on my passengers in my car to play DJ a lot. I rely on them to get the thing out of the purse if I need it. If I’m driving solo, I pull over to the parking lot. I’ll pull over and just stop the car and get what I need. I also am fortunate that my car has voice recognition. So I can use that safely because I’ve practiced it.”

According to the Washington State Department of Transportation, distracted driving is so bad the agency begged the public to be more cautious while driving through work zones after workers were injured in crashes. A driver allegedly rammed into two of their maintenance crew vehicles. All three of the injured workers were evaluated at a hospital and were subsequently released.

Background: WSDOT pleas for safer driving in work zones after more workers injured in crash

However, there are an average of 626 highway work zone accidents per year in Washington. The top three causes are: following too closely, speeding and distracted driving.

Almost 95% of the people injured or killed in work zone collisions are drivers and their passengers.

And then there’s Vision Zero, which launched in Seattle back in 2015. It aims to end pedestrian deaths by 2030. Unfortunately, the city has averaged about 28 traffic deaths per year, according to the Seattle Department of Transportation.

Every Seattle resident should be able to feel safe getting where they need to go. This review and the concrete actions that follow reaffirm our ‘One Seattle’ commitment to safety, as we work relentlessly to get back on track to reaching our Vision Zero goals. We’re transforming our streets to promote walkability and a people-first transportation system, one rooted in safety and equity, where neighborhoods most impacted and historically underserved receive the support and improvements they deserve,” Seattle Mayor Bruce Harrell said in a statement.

Ray said one of the ways parents can teach teens to become less distracted while driving is to model good behavior.

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“I mean, we’ve been doing this our whole lives with our kids, and my kids will never see me pick up my phone in a moving car ever. So they have been witnessing that for quite some time. And they also know that again, I asked passengers to help,” Ray said.

So they see these behaviors from who’s in the car. So I would say opening the narrative, looking at the Safe Drive Club, information, listening to issue and just modeling really great behavior, I think are all worthwhile steps in helping support our teams as they they start off on this new adventure for themselves,” she continued.

To make the pledge to become a better driver, you can check out Safe Drive Club’s website.

You can read more of Micki Gamez’s stories here. Follow Micki on X, formerly known as Twitter, or email her here. 

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AAA: Washington is one of the worst states for distracted driving