GOVERNORS HIGHWAY SAFETY ASSOCIATION
It’s a busy world. Multi-tasking, the need for information, and the desire to stay connected are strong forces in today’s society. These activities are a significant part of life for many Americans, overlapping with both work and play. It’s no surprise that the same activities can also distract our attention from operating a motor vehicle.
Driving is by its nature a task of divided attention, and our ability to drive safely depends on how successfully we can pay attention to the driving effort. While experts agree distracted driving is underreported, the 3,331 deaths attributed to distraction-affected crashes in 2011 increased 1.9 percent (to 3,267) over distraction-affected fatalities in 2010, when traffic deaths overall declined 1.9 percent. Injuries related to distraction-affected crashes declined 7 percent (from 416,000 to 387,000) over the same period.
Distracted driving is not a new threat to highway safety, but new technologies both in and outside the vehicle have forced policymakers to focus attention on this issue anew. A new priority safety program to address distracted driving was created in the recent surface transportation bill that authorizes the federal surface transportation programs – including highway safety programs – for Federal Fiscal Years 2013 and 2014. MAP-21, or Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century, created Section 405(e): Distracted Driving, where 8.5% of Section 405 funds are earmarked for distracted driving incentive grants to encourage states to enact and enforce prohibitions on texting as well as bans of the use of all electronic devices for all drivers aged 18 and younger, plus additional requirements.
Much of today’s focus on distracted driving centers on the use of cell phones behind the wheel and our growing dependency on these versatile devices. From simple conversations to text messaging to mobile information sources, hand-held cell phone technology is an attractive answer to many of our mobile lifestyle needs. At the same time, rapidly advancing communication and information processing technologies have continued
to capture the attention and spending of American consumers. CTIA-The Wireless Association puts the pervasiveness of this technology into context when it reports:
The explosion in ownership and use of various communication technologies and their effect on driving safety has led highway safety leaders to assess the critical issues associated with distracted driving. In 2010, the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA) surveyed its state highway safety office (SHSO) members to determine what efforts states were pursuing to address distracted driving. In Curbing Distracted Driving: 2010 Survey of State Safety Programs, GHSA found state highway safety leaders were stepping up and many had developed programs and policies aimed at reducing the costly and sometimes tragic effects of distracted driving.
GHSA surveyed its members again in late 2012 to find out how states were responding to this significant safety issue. Fifty states and the District of Columbia completed the survey, offering insights into SHSO policy, research, enforcement and educational efforts undertaken to mitigate the effects of distracted driving. The following report will show that as distracted driving has grown as a priority in the highway safety community, SHSO leaders have continued to be on the front line of efforts to address distracted driving in their states.
State highway safety office leaders are on the forefront of the distracted driving problem and recognize that the combination of inattentive drivers and increasing technology use can impact the safety of our roadways. Almost every state has employed multiple strategies to address this issue and states continue to tackle the distracted driving problem from a number of perspectives. Key findings of the 2012 survey include the following.
About The Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA)
“GHSA is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit representing the state and territorial highway safety offices that implement programs to address behavioral highway safety issues. Through GHSA leadership, partnerships and advocacy, States and Territories move toward zero deaths on the nation’s roadways. GHSA provides leadership and advocacy for the States and Territories to improve traffic safety, influence national policy, enhance program management and promote best practices.”