As the holidays come to a close, nearly 2 million Arizonans will be on the road through Jan. 2, and Arizona drivers should know their driving risks.
“Ninety percent of Arizonans traveling over the holidays are doing so by car, keeping the highways hustling and bustling through the new year,” said Linda Gorman, director of communications and public affairs for AAA Arizona. “That’s why it’s crucial for motorists to be focused and alert behind the wheel.”
December was the third highest month for crashes in 2010, according to the Arizona Department of Transportation.
And while you can’t control the other drivers on the road, you can control your own risk factors for accidents.
When it comes to acknowledging your own driving risks, AAA warns of the “Three Deadly D’s of Driving” — distracted, drunken/drugged and drowsy driving.
Distracted driving is more than just texting while driving. Talking on the phone and looking up directions also keep your eyes off the road and mind and body distracted from driving, AAA said.
Instead, AAA recommends that drivers make a designated texter, talker and navigator for the ride. And if you’re traveling alone, it’s best to pull over to make a call or send a text. Children and pets can also be a distraction to drivers, so another adult should interact with these family members, AAA suggests.
Drunken and drugged driving is also one of the most common impairments that lead to traffic crashes. However, incidences of driving under the influence during the holiday season in Arizona have decreased over the last three years, according to a report by the governor’s office of highway safety.
As New Year celebrations ramp up this weekend, bear in mind the costs —financially, punitively and physically — of a DUI.
Arizona requires that all those convicted of DUI have an ignition interlock device installed in their car. The costs of installation and maintenance for the device are paid for by the offender.
“It’s so easy to find a DD (designated driver),” said Carrick Cook, an Arizona Department of Public Safety officer. “I always tell my friends, ‘If you feel the effects of alcohol, don’t drive.’”
It’s possible to be under the legal limit and still be impaired, Cook said.
“Ask yourself on a scale from zero to 10 how drunk you are, if zero is stone cold sober and 10 is passed out drunk,” Cook said. “If you’re anything other than zero, you shouldn’t be driving.”
Cook has also noticed an increase in the number of people driving while drugged, both from legal prescription medication and illegal drugs.
And while you may not think about it, sleep is also important for driving safely.
“Sleepy driving is usually the cause of most single car accidents,” Cook said. “Get as much rest as possible. Studies show that sleepy driving can be comparable to driving under the influence as far as reaction times.”
AAA recommends getting seven to nine hours of sleep before driving. Additionally, you should not drive during the hours when you routinely sleep. If you feel sleepy when driving, pull over into a safe location and take a 20 to 30 minute nap, AAA suggests.
If you’re traveling a long distance, take a break every 100 miles or 2 hours, the motor club recommends.
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