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US Transportation Secretary LaHood issues “Blueprint for Ending Distracted Driving”; $2.4M for California, Delaware pilot projects

7 June 2012

US Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood released a “Blueprint for Ending Distracted Driving” that offers a strategy to address the growing and dangerous practice of driver’s use of handheld cell phones behind the wheel. While unveiling the plan, Secretary LaHood 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.

The “Blueprint for Ending Distracted Driving” outlines a plan that builds on the steps that Secretary LaHood and USDOT have taken for the last three years. Recognizing the extent and complexity of the problem, the plan:

  • Encourages the remaining 11 states without distracted driving laws to enact and enforce this critical 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 (NHTSA) show drivers under the age of 25 are two to three times more likely than older drivers to send text messages or emails while driving.

  • Provides all stakeholders with actions they can take that go beyond personal responsibility to helping end distracted driving nationwide.

Distracted driving is an epidemic. 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. 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.

—US Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood

Coinciding with the release of the blueprint, Secretary 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 significantly 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, CT, and Syracuse, NY. The 2011 pilot projects found significant declines in distracted driving in the two communities tested—texting dropped 72% in Hartford and 32% in Syracuse.

In 2010, 32,885 people died in motor vehicle traffic crashes in the United States—the lowest number of fatalities since 1949 (30,246 fatalities in 1949). This was a 2.9% decline in the number of people killed, from 33,883 in 2009, according to NHTSA’s 2010 Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS). Of those killed in 2010, at least 3,092 people were killed in distraction-affected crashes—accounting for approximately one in every ten fatalities on the nation’s roadways.

Meanwhile, among the findings from NHTSA’s first nationally-representative telephone survey on driver distraction released earlier this year, more than three-quarters of drivers reported that they are willing to answer calls on all, most, or some trips.

Survey respondents acknowledged few driving situations when they would not use the phone or text, and yet reported feeling unsafe when riding in vehicles in which the driver is texting and supported bans on texting and cell phone use. Almost all respondents (about 90% overall) reported that they considered a driver who was sending or reading text messages or e-mails as very unsafe.

Nationwide, 39 states, the District of Columbia, the Virgin Islands and Guam ban texting behind the wheel. Ten states, the District of Columbia, the Virgin Islands and Guam prohibit all hand-held cell phone use while driving.

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June 7, 2012 in Behavior, Connected vehicles, Policy, Safety | Permalink | Comments (9) | TrackBack (0)

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Comments

A very good idea but somewhat difficult to apply. We've had it (the law) for almost 2 years and most young drivers and older ones who forgot to grow up still use their cell phones while driving. Our unionized police refused to apply the law in most cases. Too much hard work, specially on cold or rainy days.

An automated detection and penalty system, similar to recent road side radar-cameras would do a much better (two for one) job. One well located radar/camera site collected $18,000,000 in fines last year and paid for itself 1200+ times in a single year while reducing incidents and accidents by 85% in the immediate area.

Unfortunately, the fines are not yet graded with the capability to pay, the damage potential, the size of the vehicle etc.

"2010, 32,885 people died . . .—the lowest number of fatalities since 1949."

This may be due to people today dissipating their aggression by texting.

Or maybe they were answering ". . NHTSA’s first nationally-representative telephone survey on driver distraction. . . "

Akchully, I do believe it is stupid and very dangerous; and dangerous to others at that;

but "$2.4 million in federal support for California"?

Just figure out what to do and put it on the ballot.

Will that take $2.4 million ?

The gov leaks money at every seam.

more and more of a nanny state

plus how does replacing police with cameras
create a job, looks to me like me you a getting rid of a job

danschi...road cops do not carry out very useful jobs. You might as well hire people to count butterflies or count vehicles on every street and highway.

For about $15K you can install a radar/camera active station to monitor traffic, accidents and drivers behavior and automatically issue appropriate violations/tickets 27/7. Twenty highly trained cops with 5 to 6 expensive vehicles could not do half as much.

About 50% of all city cops, city courts and local crimes could be eliminated with the installation of very high definition face/behavior recognition color cameras, computers and recorders.

If we want to compete in worldwide markets, we will have to eliminate all such useless non-productive jobs.

well Harvey lets cut out the middleman
everyone has to drive the google driving car
no need for traffic cops, zero fatalities
no speeding or running red lights
no drunk drivers
no distracted drivers
because cars pollute better not drive to a vacation or around the lake because we are polluting other peoples air so you can only drive to work and back

this shoud be a panacea

please let me off on MARS

I wish LaHood would find something to do besides being our frigging babysitter supreme for the nanny-state.

This isn't going to stop anything, it will just shift to something else....we'll have buttons on the steering wheel for everything and then how do you manage that?

He should have been around back during the McCarthy era and he could have been hunting Commies.

Your tax dollars on fire...

The biggest problem with LaHood's effort is that he apparently caved in to the cell phone makers, libertarians, or business lobby. His own NHTSB recommended strongly to ban both hand-held and hands-free phones. All the independent research and behind the wheel testing shows they are eaqually as dangeroaus.

The equal risk only makes sense. In the history of automobiles, there has never been any significant risk associated with simply holding something in one hand while driving with the other. Crashes are never blamed on this. Do people operating manual tranmission cars with a stick shift pose a greater risk because they only have one hand on the wheel? No!

The risk of using a cell phone is caused by the conversation, not because it's being held. The phone conversation causes the distraction and loss of attention (which has been shown repeatedly to be worse than talking with a passenger). Therefore, hands-free phones are not significantly safer than hand-held, and numerous independent testing results have verified this, including LaHood's own NHTSB.

After thousands of deaths, widespread public safety efforts, and years of national attention, the cell phone makers have been completely silent about this serious public safety problem. It's a shameful example of how private enterprise is disconnected from any obligation to society until legislation compells them to behave. They should have long ago teamed up with car makers to find an automated solution, but at the moment, they refuse to admit that a problem exists with their product.

Maybe before power steering, one-handed driving was risky, certainly it was in Model T days, when roads were unpaved and filled with ruts. But today almost all cars have power steering and you can drive most of the time with one finger. It's even easy to avoid sudden obstacles like potholes and cars crossing the center line with only hand.

The misconception that holding the phone causes a risk because both hands are not on the wheel is faulty. But car makers, cell phone makers, and LaHood are promoting this myth. NHTSB people certainly told him it's a myth and expect that hands-free laws will not produce any significant improvement. It probably will make matters worse because people will think the hands-free phones are safer and will spend more time using them.

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