SCRANTON — Each day, 10 people are killed in distracted driving crashes - contributing to the 37,000 people killed in crashes on U.S. roadways during 2016, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). Anything that causes you to either take your attention away from driving, take your eyes off of the road or take your hands off of the wheel is a distraction.  To stay safe on the road during National Distracted Driving Awareness month in April and all year long, AAA is calling for drivers to keep their eyes and attention on the road and hands on the wheel.

“No distraction- whether texting or eating a sandwich- is ever worth the loss of life on the roadway,” said Nina Waskevich, AAA North Penn Director of Marketing/Public Relations.

“These senseless deaths can easily be prevented if drivers simply choose to focus on the core task of driving when behind the wheel,” she said.

Contrary to what some drivers may think, hands-free, handheld and in-vehicle technologies are not distraction-free, even if a driver’s eyes are on the road and their hands are on the wheel.

More than double

The latest AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety research found that:

Drivers who text when behind the wheel more than double their odds of being involved in a crash;

Drivers who talk on a cell phone (either hands-free or handheld) when behind the wheel may elevate their odds of being involved in a crash;

Drivers who use in-vehicle technologies, like voice-based and touch screen features, can be distracted for more than 40 seconds when completing tasks like programming navigation or sending a text message.

Removing eyes from the road for just two seconds doubles the risk for a crash, according to previous research.

Driving is a complex task that requires a driver’s full attention. AAA cautions drivers to put down their phones and don’t use hands-free, handheld or in-vehicle technologies while driving. AAA offers these tips to stay safe while on the road:

Put down your phone and other electronic gadgets.

Never use text-messaging, email functions, video games or the internet with a wireless device, including those built into the vehicle.

Designate a passenger to answer in-coming calls, send or respond to text messages and to assist with navigation when the vehicle is in motion. Only use these technologies for legitimate emergencies or urgent, driving related purposes.

AAA is a strong voice in state, local and federal government efforts to advocate for a comprehensive approach to the problem of distracted driving, through laws or regulations, funding education and research and investing in enforcement and safer roads.

“The safety of our roads has always and will continue to be a priority for AAA and its members,” said Ms. Waskevich.

Know before you go

Violating Pennsylvania’s distracted driving laws can be costly.

In Pennsylvania,

The law prohibits as a primary offense any driver from using an Interactive Wireless Communication Device (IWCD) to send, read or write a text-based communication while his or her vehicle is in motion.

Defines an IWCD as a wireless phone, personal digital assistant, smartphone, portable or mobile computer or similar devices that can be used for texting, instant messaging, emailing or browsing the Internet.

Defines a text-based communication as a text message, instant message, email or other written communication composed or received on an IWCD.

Institutes a $50 fine for convictions under this section.

Makes clear that this law supersedes and preempts any local ordinances restricting the use of interactive wireless devices by drivers.

The penalty is a summary offense with a $50 fine, plus court costs and other fees.

The violation carries no points as a penalty and will not be recorded on the driver record for non-commercial drivers. It will be recorded on commercial drivers' records as a non-sanction violation.

The texting ban does NOT include the use of a GPS device, a system or device that is physically or electronically integrated into the vehicle, or a communications device that is affixed to a mass transit vehicle, bus or school bus. The law does not authorize the seizure of an IWCD.

For information on other states, visit AAA’s Digest of Motors Laws at drivinglaws.aaa.com.