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Using Devices While Stopped At a Red Light Causes Dangerous “Hangover Effect”

AAA Highlights this Effect in New PSA for Distracted Driving Awareness Month

Video assets: NEW “Don’t drive Intexticated” PSA; b-roll of distracted driving crashes, examples of inattention blindness

BELLEVUE, Wash. — This April, as part of Distracted Driving Awareness Month, AAA Washington reminds drivers that the state’s ban on hand-held electronic devices includes when they’re stopped for a traffic light or gridlock. Washington legislators created this portion of the law to prevent something called the “hangover effect” a problem highlighted in AAA’s new “Don’t drive intexticated.” Public Service Announcement (PSA).

Researchers with the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety first observed this effect during a 2015 study. When drivers/research subjects stopped smartphone use or finished using the voice-to-text vehicle infotainment system to send text messages, make phone calls or update social media, their minds remained distracted for up to 27 seconds.

The “hangover effect” happens whether the car is in motion or the driver is performing these tasks while parked or stopped at a red light. As demonstrated in the AAA Foundation’s research video examples, this effect creates a dangerous situation for other drivers, bicyclists and pedestrians.

“A lot can happen in the time it takes your mind to refocus on the task of driving,” said Kelly Just, a AAA Washington spokesperson. “This delay can lead to inattention blindness, where your eyes are looking at the road but your brain cannot see or register what’s in front of or beside you.”

Unlike most states, Washington’s distracted driving fatality rate has decreased. In 2018, the first full year under the stricter hand-held ban, the number of distracted driving traffic deaths plummeted by 25 percent. In 2019, the number of deaths stayed the same. 

In 2020, new numbers from the Washington Traffic Safety Commission (WTSC)*, show a 24 percent decrease in distracted driving fatalities. Unfortunately, the agency cannot attribute this bit of good news to a positive change in driver behavior. Instead, the WTSC says a combination of things caused the drop, including a change to the crash form that law enforcement officers fill out and distraction being overlooked as a contributing factor in crashes already involving high speeds, which increased dramatically in 2020.

AAA Washington understands that ignoring devices when behind the wheel is sometimes difficult. The following tips can help you avoid driving “Intexticated”:

  • Put it away. Place your mobile device out of sight to prevent temptation
  • Know where you’re going. If using a navigation system, program the destination before driving.
  • Pull over. If you must call or text while on the road, pull off the road safely and stop first.
  • Ask passengers for help. If riding with someone, seek their help to navigate, make a call or send a message.
  • Be a good passenger. Speak out if the driver of your vehicle is distracted.
  • Don’t be a distraction. Avoid calling or texting others when you know they are driving.
  • Activate Do Not Disturb. Setting up this feature on iPhone or Android device will prevent calls from coming in while you’re driving.
  • Everyone should prevent being intexticated. Just as drivers need to pay attention, so do pedestrians and bicyclists. Never call, text or play games while walking or cycling near a roadway.

This is the fourth year of AAA’s distracted driving prevention initiative titled “Don’t Drive Intoxicated. Don’t Drive Intexticated.” The goal of the multi-media initiative is to remind drivers that the consequences of both alcohol-impaired driving and smartphone use behind the wheel could be the same – crashes that result in deaths and injuries. AAA’s new “Intexticated” PSA targets drivers who text while alone in their vehicles.

To learn more about AAA Washington’s campaign against distracted driving visit

*The WTSC’s full report on distracted driving in 2020.

About AAA Washington:

AAA Washington was established in 1904 by 10 prominent Seattleites determined to champion the betterment of motoring conditions and laws, the preservation of Washington state’s natural beauty and the promotion of Washington as an unrivaled tourist destination. Nearly 120 years later, the club continues to pursue these on behalf of its 1.2 million members. 

Members of AAA Washington receive exclusive benefits, including roadside assistance, discounts on hotels and rental cars, comprehensive insurance options, and personalized trip planning. AAA Washington was named a Best Place to Work by Puget Sound Business Journal and voted the best Travel/Tourism Company by 425 Business readers in 2023, and AAA was named one of the most trusted travel and automotive brands in the U.S. Additional information is available through the company’s Washington and northern Idaho stores and at 

About AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety:

Established in 1947 by AAA, the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety is a nonprofit, publicly funded, 501(c)(3) charitable research and educational organization. The AAA Foundation’s mission is to prevent traffic deaths and injuries by conducting research into their causes and by educating the public about strategies to prevent crashes and reduce injuries when they do occur. This research is used to develop educational materials for drivers, pedestrians, bicyclists and other road users. Visit

Media Contact

Fearey o/b/o AAA Washington 

Twitter: @AAA_Washington
Facebook: AAA Washington
Instagram: aaawashington

Interested in planning your next road trip with AAA Washington? Call your travel agent directly or your nearest AAA store to get pro tips, TripTik maps, and more. Find more Pacific Northwest scenic drives and road trips.

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