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What strategies are governments using to fight distracted driving?

If you have been hit by a distracted driver, you may be extremely frustrated. By now, everyone should know that texting, cell phone use and other activities while driving are very dangerous.

Activities are distracting when they do one of three main things:

  • Take your eyes off the road
  • Take your hands off the wheel
  • Take your mind off of driving

Unfortunately, people 20-29 are in the age group that is most likely to drive distracted and become involved in car crashes. These people can be difficult to reach with public safety announcements.

Anti-distraction laws

What can local and state governments do to fight dangerous distraction? Many states, for example, have taken steps meant to prevent driver distraction, such as:

  • Banning texting while driving
  • Banning hand-held cellphone use while driving
  • Passing passenger limits for teen drivers

Unfortunately, the research on the effectiveness of these laws is mixed. According to some research, however, high-visibility enforcement of these laws can have an impact on preventing distraction by persuading people that they risk a ticket.

Pilot programs in Syracuse, New York, and Hartford, Connecticut, had substantial results. Using increased enforcement along with paid media, news releases and press events over a year-long period, these cities were able to achieve a 32% and 57% respective reduction in hand-held cellphone use by drivers.

Graduated driver licensing laws

Another effort that appears to make a difference is the passage of graduated driver licensing, along with restrictions on the number of teen passengers teen drivers can have in the car.

Graduated driver licensing is a system where new drivers are given privileges in stages. For example, the newest drivers may be required to have an adult supervising their driving for a period of time. They may be restricted from driving at night. One of the components of graduated driver licensing is passenger restrictions.

A national study involving 15-17 year-olds was able to achieve 21% fewer fatalities when no passengers were allowed in the car. When one passenger was allowed, fatalities were 7% lower, compared to situations where two or more passengers were allowed.

Ultimately, the goal of these interventions is to convince people not to allow themselves to become distracted. Many people believe they can safely drive while talking, eating, texting or even grooming. They're wrong, but they can be hard to convince.

What do you think would be effective at reducing driver distraction?

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