AAA study tracks distraction factors

| Monday, August 11, 2003

A study by the AAA Foundation and researchers at the University of North Carolina that video-tracked 70 drivers found only 30 percent of the subjects used a cell phone while their vehicle was moving, but 97 percent leaned over to reach for something and 91 percent fiddled with radio controls.

The drivers had cameras placed in their cars for a week, and researchers randomly selected three hours to view their behavior. The first three hours of each tape were eliminated in the hope that drivers would act more naturally later in the week.

Drivers were distracted 16.1 percent of the time their vehicles were moving; 77 percent of drivers had conversations while driving, the study found.

"People may not realize how distracted they are," said Peter Kissinger, president of AAA's Foundation for Traffic Safety. "Talking to a passenger seems quite safe, but even something that simple takes away from the road."

AAA suggested states start including a section dedicated to the problem of distracted driving in driver education manuals. Manuals produced by six states -- Arkansas, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, Virginia and Wisconsin -- now have such sections.

Ten states warn that radio dials can be a distraction, while 19 warn against cell phone use while driving, AAA said. Thirty-one states have enacted or are considering laws to ban or restrict the use of cell phones while driving.

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