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Driver study: Cell phones not top distraction

From Patty Davis
CNN Correspondent

The study found that 71.4 percent of the drivers tracked ate or drank while driving.
The study found that 71.4 percent of the drivers tracked ate or drank while driving.

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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Nearly all U.S. drivers are distracted at some point behind the wheel, according to a driver study released Wednesday.

The study, prepared by University of North Carolina researchers for the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, used cameras placed inside the cars of 70 volunteers to watch their driving behavior. Results gathered from a randomly selected three-hour span for each driver indicate that, despite the emphasis in recent months on the dangers of driving and talking on cell phones -- those phones are not the top distraction. (Interactive: Results of the study)

Reaching and leaning inside the car is the most common distraction: More than 97 percent of drivers do it, according to the study. In addition, the study found 91.4 percent manipulate the car radio; 71.4 percent eat and drink, and 77.1 percent talk with a passenger. Only 30 percent use cell phones while driving, the report says.

"When you think about the fact that there's an excess of 42,000 people who die on our highways every year, if 25 percent of those accidents are caused by distraction, if we could address that problem we could substantially reduce the number of casualties," says AAA President and CEO Robert Darbelnet.

AAA is calling on states to include instructions on dealing with distractions in driver's license manuals.

According to AAA, just five states -- Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, Virginia and Wisconsin -- dedicate a section to the topic in their manuals.

Thirty percent of the subjects used a cell phone while their vehicles were moving.
Thirty percent of the subjects used a cell phone while their vehicles were moving.

The auto association is offering common-sense tips for drivers to keep from being distracted. They include pre-programming radio stations in the car and, to avoid fumbling with maps, designating a front-seat passenger as "co-pilot." People who will be driving alone should map out destinations in advance, it said.

The association also advised teaching children good behavior in the car so they don't distract the driver. And personal grooming should be done at home, not in the car.

"It really is a matter of awareness. It's causing people to understand that these activities need to be carried out at a point in their driving where there is the least risk," Darbelnet said.

AAA is also unveiling a nationwide radio public service announcement on distracted driving to reach people on the roadways.


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