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