The U.S. Department of Transportation on Thursday, June 7, released its “Blueprint for Ending Distracted Driving,” which the department said offers a strategy to address the use of handheld cell phones behind the wheel. DOT said the plan outlines steps stakeholders across the country – from lawmakers and safety organizations to families and younger drivers – can take to reduce the risk posed by distracted driving.
DOT also announced $2.4 million in federal support for California and Delaware that will expand DOT’s “Phone in One Hand, Ticket in the Other” pilot enforcement campaign to reduce distracted driving.
“While we’ve made progress in the past three years by raising awareness about this risky behavior, the simple fact is people are continuing to be killed and injured – and we can put an end to it,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. “Personal responsibility for putting down that cell phone is a good first step – but we need everyone to do their part, whether it’s helping pass strong laws, educating our youngest and most vulnerable drivers or starting their own campaign to end distracted driving.”
The blueprint, which outlines a plan that builds on initiatives DOT has spearheaded for the last three years:
• Encourages the remaining 11 states without distracted driving laws – Arizona, Florida, Hawaii, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, New Mexico, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota and Texas – to enact and enforce this legislation;
• Challenges the auto industry to adopt new and future guidelines for technology to reduce the potential for distraction on devices built or brought into vehicles;
• Partners with driver education professionals to incorporate new curriculum materials to educate novice drivers of driver distraction and its consequences. Data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration show drivers under the age of 25 are two to three times more likely than older drivers to send text messages or e-mails while driving; and
• Provides all stakeholders with actions they can take that go beyond personal responsibility to helping end distracted driving nationwide.
Coinciding with the release of the blueprint, LaHood announced that California and Delaware have been selected to receive federal support for pilot projects that will test the effect of increased law enforcement and high-profile public education campaigns on distracted driving.
DOT is providing California and Delaware with $2.4 million of federal support for pilot programs that will examine whether increased police enforcement coupled with paid media and news media coverage can reduce distracted driving over a widespread area. The California program will take place in the Sacramento valley region comprising eight counties and 3.8 million residents, while the Delaware program will be conducted statewide. Both projects are expected to be under way in fall 2012.
The multi-market efforts in these states mirror the approach used in smaller-scale demonstration projects completed in 2011 in Hartford, Conn., and Syracuse, N.Y. NHTSA said the 2011 pilot projects found declines in distracted driving in the two communities tested – with texting dropping 72 percent in Hartford and 32 percent in Syracuse.
Nationwide, 39 states, the District of Columbia, the Virgin Islands and Guam have banned texting behind the wheel. Ten states, the District of Columbia, the Virgin Islands and Guam prohibit all handheld cell phone use while driving.