Driver distraction is a leading factor in many crashes, and cell phone use and texting are two of the most common distractions. Many states and local jurisdictions are passing laws that address these behaviors. The Governors' Highway Safety Association's ("GHSA") message to all drivers remains: Don't use cell phones or other electronic devices while driving, regardless of the current law.
In 2012, GHSA broadened its distracted driving policy to include a recommendation for ALL states to ban hand-held cell phone use for all drivers. (Previously, GHSA's policy supported only text messaging bans for all drivers). GHSA continues to support restrictions of all electronic device use by novice drivers and school bus drivers.
While texting and hand-held bans are both critical, texting bans by themselves can be difficult to enforce. In states with texting but not hand-held bans, a driver may claim they were dialing a phone number when stopped by a police officer. Recent enforcement projects in specific New York and Connecticut localities have shown that hand-held cell phone bans can be enforced effectively and can reduce driver use of a cell phone. See below for the specific policy language.
In 2011, GHSA released Distracted Driving: What Research Shows and What States Can Do. The report summarizes what distracted driving is, how often drivers are distracted, how distraction impacts driver performance and what countermeasures may be most effective as well as what states can do to reduce distracted driving.
Among the findings:
- Distractions affect driving performance.
- Drivers frequently are distracted, perhaps as much as half the time.
- Distractions are estimated to be associated with 15 to 25 percent of crashes at all levels.
- Texting likely increases crash risk more than cell phone use.
Based on the existing research, the report urges states to:
- Use low-cost engineering solutions such as edgeline and centerline rumble stripes to alert motorists who may drift.
- Record distracted driving in crash reports.
- Evaluate other distracted driving laws and programs.
10 Tips for Managing Driver Distraction
Distracted drivers pose a deadly risk to everyone on the road. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimates that in 2011, the most recent year for which data is available, 3,331 people lost their lives and another387,000 were injured in distraction-affected crashes.1 Drivers engage in a range of distracting activities from talking and texting on their phones, to eating, grooming and reading. Even the use of hands-free technologies isn’t without risk as dangerous mental distractions exist even when drivers keep their hands on the wheel and eyes on the road.2
Here are 10 tips for managing some of the most common distractions.
- Turn it off and stow it. Turn your phone off or switch it to silent mode before you get in the car. Then stow it away so that it’s out of reach.
- Spread the word. Record a message on your phone that tells callers you’re driving and will get back to them when you’re off the road, or sign up for a service that offers this feature.
- Pull over. If you need to make a call, pull over to a safe area first.
- Use your passengers. Ask a passenger to make the call or respond to a text for you.
- X the Text. Don’t ever text and drive, surf the web or read your email while driving. It’s dangerous and against the law in most state. Even voice-to-text isn’t risk-free.3
- Know the law. Familiarize yourself with state and local laws before you get in the car. Some states and localities prohibit the use of hand-held cell phones in addition to texting.
- Prepare. If using a GPS device, enter your destination before you start to drive. If you prefer a map or written directions, review them in advance. If you need help while driving, ask a passenger to assist you or pull over to a safe location to change your GPS or review your map/directions.
- Secure your pets. Unsecured pets can be a big distraction in the car.
- Mind the kids. Pull over to a safe place to address situations involving children in the car.
- Focus on driving. Multi-tasking behind the wheel is dangerous. Refrain from eating, drinking, reading, grooming, smoking, and any other activity that takes your mind and eyes off the road.
Remember, distracted driving can cause injury more often than not. As a Phoenix car accident lawyer, there are countless examples of where distracted driving played a role in an accident. Please don't do it. It must be stopped!