How Can We Prevent TWD?

Criminal convictions and incarceration will send a more powerful message, if the young drivers are listening.

DOT's "Blueprint for Ending Distracted Driving" has me wondering how we can prevent people from using handheld cellphones as they drive. Texting while driving raises the most concern. Not only did 58 percent of the high school seniors taking a recent DOT survey admit they had sent a text or email while driving during the previous month, but also the penalties are suddenly severe. The two-year jail sentence given to a Massachusetts teen who'd been involved in a fatal collision proves that.

The blueprint is based on education, enacting distracted driving laws in every state, and enforcement of those laws. Text messaging already is banned for all drivers in 39 states and in Washington, D.C., and some other states ban it for novice drivers and/or school bus drivers. According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, only five states have no texting while driving ban of any kind in place: Arizona, Montana, South Dakota, South Carolina, and Florida. So there may be universal coverage fairly soon.

Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, who calls distracted driving "an epidemic," also announced $2.4 million in federal support for pilot programs in California and Delaware to study whether increased police enforcement along with advertising and media coverage can significantly reduce distracted driving across a entire state or a large urban area.

"We know from the success of national efforts like 'Click It or Ticket' that combining good laws with effective enforcement and a strong public education campaign can and does change unsafe driving behavior. Now, along with two great state partners, we’re using this proven formula to help tackle distracted driving," said NHTSA Administrator David Strickland.

Criminal convictions and incarceration will send a more powerful message, if the young drivers are listening. (According to NHTSA data, drivers under age 25 are two to three times more likely than older drivers to send text messages or emails while driving.) While the case was tragic for all concerned, the judge who pronounced the sentence in Massachusetts in June should have gotten their attention.

This article originally appeared in the August 2012 issue of Occupational Health & Safety.

About the Author

Jerry Laws is Editor of Occupational Health & Safety magazine, which is owned by 1105 Media Inc.

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