New Year’s resolutions don’t need to stop at losing weight or controlling finances. Why not resolve to clean up some behind-the-wheel behaviors and adopt safer driving habits in 2014?

“As an advocacy organization, AAA is urging motorists to make a personal goal to be a safe driver in 2014,” said Brad Oltmans, vice president of insurance for AAA Arizona. “This is especially important as issues such as distracted driving have become a public health threat.”

In 2012, 825 Arizonans died in traffic fatalities — a slight increase from 821 in 2011 — according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

AAA Arizona is challenging motorists to examine their driving habits and make the following four safe driving resolutions for 2014:

  • Put down the phone. In 2011, more than 3,300 people in the United States died in crashes related to using a cellphone or texting while driving. Luckily, this safety fix is simple: Pull over to use your phone. If you can’t control the urge, use an app to block the phone from being operated while driving. And don’t think a Bluetooth makes everything safer — it’s just as cognitively distracting to use hands-free technology as hand-held.
  • Know the laws. Many motorists aren’t aware of newer laws on the books. For example, in 2011, Arizona’s “Move Over” law was expanded to include tow trucks and stranded motorists displaying alternately flashing lights alongside freeways and highways. Any time you see an emergency vehicle or any other vehicle with its hazard lights on, you must move over a lane to give it extra room. If you can’t move over, you must slow down substantially.
  • Yield to pedestrians and bicyclists. An increasing number of pedestrians are being killed in motor-vehicle-related crashes in Arizona. In fact, the number of pedestrians and bicyclists killed from 2005 to 2010 rose 45 and 30 percent, respectively. Motorists should be especially diligent around crosswalks and look both ways for bikes. Pedestrians and cyclists should be aware of their surroundings, not walk or ride distracted, and wear bright and/or reflective clothing.
  • Always use a proper car seat. In Arizona, children up to age 8 or 4 feet, 9 inches tall must be secured in a proper child safety seat. All children younger than 12 should be in the back seat. Be careful, though: More than 80 percent of car seats are installed incorrectly. Make sure you’re using the right seat by checking with an expert. Fire stations and safety organizations, such as AAA, offer free car seat checks.

“While these tips sound simple, they could end up saving a life,” Oltmans said. “It’s up to all drivers to create a safer traffic mix in Arizona.”

Valerie Vinyard is a public affairs specialist for AAA Arizona. Contact her at or at 258-0518.