Occupational Health & Safety

GHSA Chairman Vernon F. Betkey Jr.

Group Says Technology Among Distracted Driving's Solutions

GHSA, whose chairman is scheduled to speak at next week's DOT Summit, also seeks model policies for employers to use and an advertising campaign similar to the ones against drunken driving.

At least one of the organizations sending an official to speak at next week's Distracted Driving Summit supports technology as part of the solution. The Governors Highway Safety Association listed six ways the federal government could address the problem without penalizing states that fail to enact texting or calling bans; GHSA is already on record as stating drivers should not use cell phones for any purpose while they are driving.

"To address this growing problem, the federal government does not need to sanction states that do not pass cell phone or texting while driving bans. Rather, there are a variety of actions the federal government can take to help states best respond to distracted driving," the organization stated in a Sept. 14 statement of its position. GHSA Chairman Vernon F. Betkey Jr. is scheduled to speak Oct. 1 at the summit as one of the Legislation, Regulation and Enforement panelists at the summit.

The actions GHSA then listed are:

  • Funding research to develop effective ways to enforce texting and cell phone bans, which the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration will undertake beginning this fall.
  • Funding research to determine the nature and scope of the distracted driving problem. "It is very difficult to ascertain the scope of the distracted driving problem given that the public is not likely to readily admit guilt in a crash investigation. Special studies are needed using subpoenaed phone records to determine the involvement of phoning or texting in a crash. Further, there are contradicting research findings about the benefits of hands-free devices, and more study are needed on this issue," GHSA said.
  • Funding a media campaign to alert the public to the dangers of distracted driving, in much the same way ad campaigns have cemented among the American public the idea that drunken driving is a major threat to their safety (according to the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety's 2009 Traffic Safety Culture Index, released in July 2009).
  • Developing model policies for employers, encouraging them to ban cell phone use/texting by all employees driving for business purposes.
  • Providing financial incentives for states that pass comprehensive graduated licensing laws that include cell phone/texting bans for new drivers.
  • Supporting technological solutions that minimize driver distraction. "Technology has created this issue," according to the organization, "but it can also be part of the solution. GHSA is very interested in systems that automatically disengage a driver's cell phone while the driver is driving. These voluntary systems could be particularly useful tools for parents of teen drivers or for employers who want to monitor their employees' cell phone use while on work business."

"Distracted driving did not become a problem overnight, and it will not be solved overnight. There is a not likely to be a one-size-fits-all solution. The Secretary of Transportation's upcoming distracted driving summit offers an excellent start toward developing a comprehensive solution that embraces technology, legislation and educational approaches," GHSA's statement said.

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