Billboard campaign seeks to educate motorists about distracted driving

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By AAA Carolinas

CHARLOTTE  – AAA Carolinas is expanding its ad campaign to billboards in North and South Carolina to warn drivers of the dangers of distracted driving, particularly the use of a cell phone and texting while driving.

“Last year, we started a campaign with ads above gas pumps in gas stations in different counties in the Carolinas to warn drivers of the possible consequences of using a cell phone or texting while driving,” said Tom Crosby, president of AAA Carolinas’ Traffic Safety Foundation.

“This year, we’re expanding our ads to a bigger format. Drivers will now see billboards with the ads illustrating the dangers of using cell phones and texting, including crashes and/or death,” he said.

The billboard campaign began in January and will continue through March. The campaign is the start of a yearlong campaign by AAA Carolinas’ Traffic Safety Foundation to explain the dangers of distracted driving to motorists.

Driving while distracted can affect a driver’s perception, judgment and action, said Crosby.

“Using a cell phone (talking or texting) while driving is very dangerous, as many motorists know from personal experience or from watching drivers using cell phones in nearby cars,” Crosby said. “Talking or texting on a cell phone distracts a driver, taking his attention off the road and putting him in danger of a crash.”

Eight of 10 crashes and 65 percent of near-crashes occurred when drivers were distracted, primarily by wireless devices, such as cell phones and phones with texting capacity and Internet access, according to a 2008 study by the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute.

Eight out of 10 drivers rated distracted driving as a serious problem, but 53 percent of them admitted they had talked on their cell phone while driving in the past 30 days and 14 percent admitted they had read or sent a text message in the past 30 days, according to the 2008 AAA Traffic Safety Culture Index.

“The graphics used in the billboard campaign are designed to get your attention – and make you think twice – before using a cell phone when you are driving,” Crosby said.

The billboards are likely to be viewed several million times, said Crosby, who added that he hopes the campaign will prompt a change in motorist behavior.

“Using a cell phone while driving to either talk or text is a major distraction to a driver and can lead to deadly consequences,” Crosby said. “AAA Carolinas wants to alert motorists to the dangers and suggest safe options.”