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Pandemic Health Habits, Smartphone Behavior Add to Memorial Day Driving Dangers


Memorial Day is seen by many as the unofficial start of summer ... and a time to get out and relax.  But it also brings with it certain safety threats.  This holiday weekend, the coronavirus pandemic might be adding some new risks to our safety. 

The Memorial Day Weekend kicks off what police and highway safety experts call the 100 deadliest days of driving … since more travel and drinking and driving, lead to more highway deaths – especially for teens.  AAA of Western and Central New York spokesperson Elizabeth Carey blames the pandemic for even more driving hazards. 

“Think about it.  We have facemasks, hand sanitizer, we have gloves, cords to listen to a podcast; we have our phones.  So there’s more and more distractions behind he wheel.  So as more and more communities reopen, motorists will be venturing out and it’s very important for all of us to be aware of the dangers of distraction.”

Admittedly, driving will be down … Triple A expects a record low number of holiday travelers with few destinations open.  At the same time, people are stir-crazy and nice weather will lure some out.  AT&T spokesperson Kevin Hanna says they're finding one growing driving distraction.

“Over the past 10 weeks we’ve all become much more dependent on using our smartphones and mobile devices, to stay connected, to work remotely, distance learning for our children at home, and for streaming entertainment.  Everything changes when you get behind the steering wheel.”

Think that sounds crazy?  An AT&T survey finds about a third of people admit to taking or watching videos and posting to social media while driving.  And 9 in 10 say they’ve used their smart phone in some way while behind the wheel. 

“Drivers attitudes toward the dangers of distracted driving have actually softened.  And that results in an increase of risky behaviors behind the wheel," Hanna adds.  "They’re checking their email; they’re snapping selfies.  And what’s extremely alarming is use of video has doubled in the past few years.  People are streaming immersive content, watching videos.  They might be gaming or video chatting while they’re driving.”

AT&T's It Can Wait campaign is meant to spread awareness about distracted driving.  it asks drivers, focusing on teens, to take a pledge never to use a hand-held smart[phone while driving.

State Police will be out in force looking for distracted and impaired driving.  So Officials urge: cut out the driving risks; and observe all safe health measures as well, if any road trip is part of your holiday. 

Chris Bolt, Ed.D. has proudly been covering the Central New York community and mentoring students for more than 30 years. His career in public media started as a student volunteer, then as a reporter/producer. He has been the news director for WAER since 1995. Dedicated to keeping local news coverage alive, Chris also has a passion for education, having trained, mentored and provided a platform for growth to more than a thousand students. Career highlights include having work appear on NPR, CBS, ABC and other news networks, winning numerous local and state journalism awards.