Keep your hands on the wheel. Text messages, lipstick and on-the-road snacks can wait.
That’s the message that AAA Arizona is spreading as part of a national AAA campaign that asks drivers to keep their eyes on the road.
Heads Up Driving Week, lasting through Oct. 11, challenges motorists to begin adopting habits that will pay dividends for a lifetime.
“We hope that after this week is over there wasn’t a single e-mail or text they missed during that week of driving that was worth compromising their safety,” said Linda Gorman, public affairs director for AAA Arizona.
But this week focuses on all forms of distracted driving, including having conversations with passengers, reaching for something in the car or eating on the road.
According to a National Highway Traffic Safety Association report, distracted driving contributed to 16 percent of all fatal crashes and 21 percent of injuries from car accidents in 2008. The greatest proportion of distracted drivers were under the age of 20.
The organization is working to get all states to ban text messaging while driving. That includes Arizona, where such legislation has foundered the past three years.
Gorman said that AAA Arizona, which provides automobile insurance to nearly 800,000 Arizonans, will press for the Legislature to approve a ban on texting while driving in 2010.
“We really want to call attention to distracted driving as a serious problem on the road and one that continues to be a bigger problem each year as more technology invades our driving space,” she said.
Alberto Gutier, director of the Governor’s Office of Highway Safety, said he applauds AAA Arizona for raising awareness about distracted driving but remains concerned about what a ban on distracted driving would apply to and how it would be enforced.
“Radio stations_ that’s a distraction,” he said. “But is blowing your nose with a Kleenex? Or looking at GPS?”
Sen. Al Melvin, R-Tucson, who sponsored a bill last year that would have banned text messaging while driving in Arizona, said he intends to work with AAA and wireless providers to get a law passed in 2010.
“My hope is to get it done as the state of Arizona before the federal government forces anything on us,” Melvin said.
Rep. Steve Farley, D-Tucson, who also has introduced bills against text-messaging and using cell phones while driving, said he plans to work closely with Melvin.
“It’s enough to focus on moving 3,000-pound vehicle down the highway,” Farley said. “We don’t need something else to take our attention off that.”