AAA and the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety are launching new legislative and communications campaigns to reduce distracted driving and improve safety on roadways. AAA has announced that the motor club will work to pass laws banning text messaging by drivers in all 50 states by 2013, citing strong public support for the laws, the danger of distracted driving, and new research by the Automobile Club of Southern California showing the impact of California’s texting ban.

“The new technologies that help us multitask in our everyday lives and increasingly popular social media sites present a hard-to-resist challenge to the typically safe driver,” said AAA President and CEO Robert L. Darbelnet. “Enacting texting bans for drivers in all 50 states can halt the spread of this dangerous practice among motorists nationwide, and is a key legislative priority for AAA in state capitols.”

Currently, 18 states and the District of Columbia have laws that address text messaging by all drivers. Two more states have laws that prohibit teens or other new drivers from texting while driving. Laws differ across the states and some have significant shortcomings, according to AAA.

“AAA will lobby nationwide to pass laws in states that lack them and improve existing laws against texting while driving,” said Darbelnet.

Recent high-profile texting crashes and a provocative Public Service Annnouncement from the United Kingdom have brought the dangers of distracted driving, and texting while driving in particular, into the public spotlight. AAA Foundation research shows that approximately one in five U.S. drivers admit to texting while driving at least once in the last 30 days. Multiple surveys of the general public and AAA’s membership show that 80 to 90 percent of Americans support texting bans. AAA is advocating for laws that make it illegal for drivers of all ages to send, write, or read a text message or e-mail while their vehicle is in motion.

The AAA legislative push to enact texting while driving bans is supported by new research by the Auto Club of Southern California showing that the texting while driving ban implemented in California in January 2009 appears to be reducing texting by drivers.

Prior to the California texting while driving ban, researchers observed 1.4 percent of drivers at any point in time in Orange County, Calif. were texting while driving. Following the law taking effect, just 0.4 percent of drivers were observed texting — a decline of about 70 percent overall. This indicates that banning texting while driving can potentially change driving behavior of motorists, reduce dangerous distracted driving, and improve safety, according to AAA.

The popularity of texting has grown quickly over the past four years. According to the wireless industry trade association, CTIA, the number of monthly texting messages reached 110 billion at the end of 2008, a more than 11-fold increase in three years. Studies have shown texting while driving to be an extremely dangerous distraction for drivers due to the extended time drivers spend not looking at the road.

The AAA Foundation and AAA call on all drivers to pledge their participation in Heads Up Driving Week spanning Monday, Oct. 5 through Sunday, Oct. 11. “We are asking everyone to rethink their driving behavior and take the first step toward becoming distraction-free by trying it for a week and then doing it for life,” said AAA Foundation President and CEO Peter Kissinger. By participating, drivers vow to eliminate distractions behind the wheel and sign a pledge committing to distraction-free driving for Heads Up Driving Week and beyond.