2013
07.18

Here’s something new: Distracted driving is an epidemic across the United States. This problem seems to be new for all the consumers who continue to use their electronic devices while driving and just don’t seem to care about the consequences to themselves and everyone else on the road.

It’s saddens me to think that despite all the media campaigns and how many times we repeat the message on my radio show, The Peggy Smedley Show, about the importance of hands on the wheel and eyes on the road, we still haven’t made enough headway during the past three years in this country. (I’ll talk more about this on my show on Tuesday 12 noon central)

Yesterday a new study released from the Governors Highway Safety Assn., shed some light on the state of distraction. The report focuses on how states are dealing with distracted driving. According to the report, since 2010 more states have put laws on the books relating to driver distraction. It’s not surprising that states are taking the steps to educate the public, as well as collecting even more data related to the topic.

Regardless of the lack of real progress on the part of drivers to put down their cellphones when driving, there is some good news. The real truth is that many automakers and tech companies are working diligently on solutions that can keep all of us safe when we are behind the wheel.

The study found that no state fully bans all cellphone use while driving. However, 47 states and Washington, D.C., have specific laws prohibiting various forms of driving while using a device. It’s not surprising that 41 states ban texting for all drivers, and this number is up from just 28 states in 2010, which is a 45% increase. If you ask me, it’s time that every state bans texting while driving. Nothing is so important that sending a text is more important than a focusing on the road ahead when you are driving.

Perhaps the most significant news in the report is that most states have also stepped up enforcement of laws. GHSA says law enforcement in almost every state is actively enforcing distracted driving laws, which it says is a significant change since 2010. In the past, some laws on the books weren’t commonly being enforced. But in some cases the distinctions of the distracted driving laws can make enforcement tough. Interestingly, some laws only apply to certain age groups, like teen drivers, while some laws permit calling, but not texting. It can sometimes be difficult for officers to determine if the action is a violation or not. 

The study says states are doing more to educate drivers about the laws, including turning to social media, such as Twitter, YouTube, and Facebook to get spread the word. Using social media has risen a whopping 125% during the past three years.

A key component of the report is now data collection. The report indicates 47 states and Washington D.C., are now collecting driving-related data from police crash reports. And perhaps even more importantly, a number of states are working with universities to analyze the crash data in order to better understand the problem of distracted driving.

While we are seeing many states begin to move in the right direction as it pertains to driver distraction, they continue to face a host of challenges, including a lack of funding for enforcement, media, and education. The report points out that many motorists still remain reluctant to put down their devices while driving. We still haven’t struck the right balance between drivers wanting and needing the information and communication that technology brings to them, while at the same time keeping everyone safe on the road.

While all of these campaigns are beginning to have a positive impact, the progress is still slow and very painful for the many families and friends who have lost loved ones due to distracted drivers. We still have a long way to go.

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