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Distracted driving crashes on the rise

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Posted at 5:41 AM, Apr 12, 2021

MILWAUKEE — In a split second, the decision to check your cell phone while driving can have serious consequences, from a fender bender to a deadly crash. According to AAA Wisconsin, distracted driving cases are on the rise.

“It’s really is on par with being drunk or intoxicated or impaired by drugs,” said Nick Jarmuz with AAA Wisconsin.

Data from the National Traffic Highway Safety Administration shows in 2019, distracted driving crashes killed 3,142 people in the United States – an average of 9 deaths per day. That number was up 10 percent from the year before (2,839 deaths in 2018). In Wisconsin alone, there were 28 fatal crashes involving a distracted driver, resulting in 29 fatalities in 2019.

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However, Jarmuz said the number of distracted driving cases oftentimes go under-reported.

“Whether it's because it wasn't known to the responding officers at the time or whether it's just something that they're not able to verify,” said Jarmuz.

Jarmuz said distracted driving is not solely about using your cellphone, it can range from searching for things in your vehicle and inattentive driving.

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“If their mind is preoccupied with another task their brain simply isn't processing what their eyes are looking at,” said Jarmuz.

Jarmuz also said with new technology improvements oftentimes give people a false sense of security like automatic braking and voice commands

“They think well, maybe I can grab that call, or I can check that text because I have this extra security that's going to protect me in a crash,” said Jarmuz.

AAA offers these tips to avoid distracted driving:

  • Put it away. Place your mobile device out of sight to prevent temptation.
  • Know where you’re going. If using a navigation system, program the destination before driving.
  • Pull over. If you must call or text while on the road, pull off the road safely and stop first.
  • Ask passengers for help. If riding with someone, seek their help to navigate, make a call or send a message.
  • Be a good passenger. Speak out if the driver of your vehicle is distracted.
  • Don’t be a distraction. Avoid calling or texting others when you know they are driving.
  • Activate Do Not Disturb. Setting up this feature on iPhone or Android device will prevent calls from coming in while you’re driving.
  • Everyone should avoid distractions while in traffic. Just as drivers need to pay attention, so do pedestrians and bicyclists. Never call, text or play games while walking or cycling.

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