Distracted driving is a problem encompassing far more than merely texting or talking on the phone. Distracted driving includes any activity that diverts the attention of a driver away from the road. These distractions can be classified into three different but possibly overlapping categories: visual (an activity which takes one’s eyes off the road), manual (an activity which takes one’s hands off the steering wheel), and cognitive (an activity which takes one’s mind off the road).1 These activities, of course, include talking on the phone and texting while driving, but they also include, but are not limited to, activities such as eating and drinking, conversing with passengers, applying makeup, shaving, adjusting the radio or navigation, and reading. All of these examples of distracted driving fit into at least one, if not two or all three, of the categories listed and, the more categories an activity falls into, the more distracting––and dangerous––it is. A fourfold approach to minimizing and eliminating these distractions is warranted. The typical approach of citing statistics and stories about distracted drivers is part, but certainly not all of the solution. In addition to citing statistics and employing emotional appeals, a successful push to dramatically reduce and hopefully eliminate distracted driving would require a “shaming” system and a push for harsher legal penalties against distracted drivers.
Such a comprehensive approach to minimizing distracted driving is in order because not only is it an extremely pervasive problem, but also, its consequences can be dire, if not outright fatal. According to a 2016 study, eighty-seven percent of drivers have engaged in at least one risky behavior while driving within the last thirty days.2 Moreover, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) found that 3,166 people were killed in motor vehicle accidents involving distracted drivers in just one year. 3 The NHTSA also found that 599 “nonoccupants” (that is, pedestrians, bicyclists, and the like) were killed in crashes due to distracted driving. Particularly concerning is that, according to the National Safety Council, the number of distracted driving crashes is said to be underreported.4 Not only are the number of distracted driving-related fatalities incredibly high, but the number of injuries are astronomically high as well. In 2015, the NHTSA found that nearly 400,000 drivers are injured each year as a result of distracted driving.5 It is particularly frustrating that distracted drivers could, in theory, reduce these numbers to zero if only they focused on the road.
The best approach to take to minimize distracted driving is four-fold: the presentation of statistics, emotional appeals, the utilization of a shaming system, and advocacy for harsher legal penalties for distracted driving would all be crucial in reducing, and hopefully eliminating, the problem of distracted driving. According to a 2014 study, “over 84% of drivers recognize the danger from cell phone distractions and find it ‘unacceptable’ that drivers text or e-mail while driving. [Yet,] 36% of these same people admit to having read or sent a text message or e-mail while driving in the previous month.”6 Evidently, approaches taken thus far to minimize distracted driving still have a long way to go. While statistics about distracted driving are perceived as impersonal and elicit a “Well, it won’t happen to me!” response, they are still, to some extent, convincing. Among the statistics I would cite, aside from those mentioned above, are that people are just as impaired when they drive and talk on a cell phone as they are when they drive intoxicated at the legal blood-alcohol limit.7 Additionally, cell phone users are nearly 5.5 times more likely to get into an accident than drivers who are not distracted.8 I would supplement these statistics by employing emotional appeals through a discussion of particular instances of distracted driving that resulted in death or gruesome injuries. There are countless stories in the news, nationally and locally, of the horrible fates distracted drivers have faced. The shock value of hearing, in detail, what could happen when individuals fail to pay attention to the road could instill the necessary fear of the dangers that could ensue from engaging in distracted driving. In addition to citing such statistics and telling such stories, a third way one could attempt to minimize distracted driving is to “enforce” a rule among family members and friends to not drive while distracted. The enforcement of such a rule would involve pointing out when a loved one is driving while distracted. Such “shaming” would help establish a system in which individuals are discouraged to engage in distracted driving lest they desire the admonishment of a friend or family member. A fourth and final way would be to impose harsher legal penalties on distracted driving. While merely paying a fine for distracted driving might serve as a strong enough deterrent for some people, the threat of license suspension could serve as a much stronger disincentive for distracted driving. After all, as one of statistics above brought to light, if texting or talking while driving is as dangerous as driving at the legal drinking limit, would it not be justified to treat distracted driving as seriously as we do drunk driving?
There is never a good excuse for distracted driving. Other substitutes for texting and driving, such as voice command might be a safer alternative than looking down at one’s phone to use it, but, still, pose a risk to everyone on the road. The solution is not to lessen the distractions, but to eliminate them entirely. Thus, it is of paramount importance that drivers pay attention to the road––and this often involves putting away their smartphones, not using a less distracting alternative. If a driver is not willing to put away their phone, using the Do Not Disturb While Driving feature on one’s iPhone could help ameliorate this problem. I, for one, use this feature and find that it helps eliminate the temptation of distracted driving all together. When this feature is on, I do not get notifications from social media or texts and, further, a text is automatically sent back to the original sender stating that I am driving. Not only does this feature eliminate the distraction and temptation to text while driving, but it also sends the message to others that one should not text while driving. Using technological innovations such as this to combat distracted driving, I believe, is the road forward. Moreover, ensuring safer driving conditions requires individuals to not only not engage in distracted driving, but also to be active in discouraging it. This means not only informing the distracted drivers in our lives about the dangers of distracted driving through statistics and anecdotes, but also telling them to pay attention to the road. The solution to distracted driving is something that each of us can play a role in; it’s simple, but it will require diligence and enforcement.
Combating Distracted Driving: Education, Legislation, and Enforcement
In March 2015, a man drove off the edge of a demolished Chicago bridge, killing his wife as the car burst into flames. As investigations proceeded, international newspapers reported that the driver was following outdated GPS directions which caused the vehicle to take a 38-foot plunge (DailyMail.com). While this story might seem like it emerged from a late-night crime show, it exposes drivers’ dependence on technology while on the roads, and proves distracted driving can be fatal. The US Department of Transportation defines distracted driving as “a specific type of inattention that occurs when drivers divert their attention from the driving task to focus on some other activity instead,” which can include cell phone use, eating, talking to passengers, fatigue, physical or emotional state of the driver, or adjusting the dashboard (NHTSA and US Department of Transportation). From 2007 – 2017, the National Occupant Protection Use Survey has documented three types of distracted driving behavior. According to data, handheld cell phone use (talking with the phone up to your ear), has decreased from 6.2% to 2.9%. However, visual manipulation of devices (texting, email, etc.), has increased from 0.7% to 2.0% (Fottrell). The appearance of new technology has created more opportunities for distracted driving, and this behavior will only change through effective education, legislation, and law enforcement.
Since the invention of the cell phone, drivers are increasingly using handheld technology to send texts, browse social media, make calls, and check email. Drivers are even playing online games, for in Tippecanoe County, Indiana, 134 crashes out of 286 were attributed to playing Pokémon Go (“Did Pokémon Go…”). In 2017, 9% or 2,935 of all fatal crashes were caused by distracted driving, killing 3,166 people including 599 pedestrians bicyclists or others. For distracted driving that included cell phone use, there were a total of 401 fatal crashes which killed 434 people (NHTSA and US Department of Transportation). Handheld devices are 4x more likely to produce car crashes resulting in injury. Dialing a phone makes crashes 2.8x more likely and texting makes crashes 23.2x more likely (“Statistics on Driving While Texting”). Texting and driving takes your eyes off the road for 5 seconds, which is like driving the length of a football field at 55mph (Fottrell). These dangerous and risky behaviors must change, and current legislation must be combined with effective campaigns to encourage drivers to stop using cell phones on the road.
Currently, distracted driving legislation is regulated and controlled at the State level. The first state to ban the use of handheld cell phones was New York in 2001. The Governor’s Highway Safety Administration reports the first texting ban was passed in 2007 in Washington State, and was followed by 47 other States. These laws (all but 3) are primary enforcement laws, meaning an officer can cite the driver for texting without committing any other traffic offense. South Dakota, Ohio, and Nebraska all ban texting as secondary enforcement laws. This makes it harder to catch offenders and decreases the seriousness and legitimacy of a texting ban. Additionally, 39 States and D.C. ban cell-phones for novice drives. Within these States, Missouri only prohibits texting for drivers under 21 and Tennessee only when the vehicle is in motion. Only 18 states and D.C. completely prohibit drivers from using hand-held cell phones, also as primary enforcement laws (Governor’s Highway Safety Administration).
The Federal Government has taken various measures to try and curb the increase in cell phone use and distracted driving. In 2009, President Obama issued an Executive Order to prohibit federal employees from texting and driving on Government business (US OPM). The Department of Transportation held two national summits on distracted driving in 2009 and 2010, launched the Advocates for Cell-Free Driving through the National Safety Council, and established the campaign “Faces of Distracted Driving,” where victims described their stories. In the past, Congress has held Congressional hearings on the topic of distracted driving, but failed to pass the ALERT Drivers Act S. 1536/H.R. 3535 in 2009 (Chase). Recently, the Federal Government created a special “Distracted Driving Grant,” for states who ban texting and use of phones for all drivers ages 18 and under. Unfortunately, only four states qualified in 2018, because others lacked texting bans or fines associated with these violations (Kitch). This proves that the Federal, State, and local governments still have to
collaborate on further legislation to combat distracted driving behavior.
The National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration has taken a different approach, issuing voluntary safety guidelines to car manufacturers with suggestions for improving dashboard technology. These 2012 recommendations included: 1. Locking the ability to program navigation while the car is moving and 2. Preventing drivers from texting. Another suggestion was implementing a “driver mode” which makes it impossible to receive texts and other distracting notifications while driving (“Automated Vehicles for Safety” ). Car manufacturers have tried to mitigate these problems by improving voice commands and including more high-tech dashboards. However, hands-free technology is not necessarily risk-free, and voice commands are just as distracting as using a device.
To prove this, researchers at the University of Utah studied drivers completing different tasks in various cars including fixing the radio, placing calls on the dashboard, sending texts, and navigating on the cars’ in-vehicle infotainment systems. They found that each activity was distracting because it required cognitive thinking, causing “inattentional blindness” for drivers. Also, drivers became frustrated using these systems and became more distracted (“How Dashboards Continue to Distract Driving”). Researchers rated all 30 car models used as “very high” or “high” in the amount of attention they demanded from drivers. Furthermore, a Consumer Reports study also concluded similar findings when they rated dashboard systems. They rated Acura, Cadillac, Lexus, Mercedes-Benz, Tesla, and Volvo as having the most distracting dashboards. Ford, GM, and Fiat-Chrysler were found to be the least distracting (CBS News). As a further recommendation to all car manufacturers, AAA stated that these dashboards should be designed so that they require no more attention that listening to the radio or an audiobook (Lowy).
Interestingly, the University of Utah researchers deemed that using GPSs were the most dangerous driving behavior, taking drivers’ eyes off the road for an average of 40 seconds. This is 16 seconds more than using phones or voice technology. Unfortunately, 60% of respondents to a recent survey reported using a GPS while driving, but only 7% thought this behavior was more dangerous than texting. The National Highway Traffic Safety and Administration has also declared that GPSs are the most distracting hand-held technology for drivers (NHTSA and US Department of Transportation). With many citizens not realizing how dangerous this behavior is, it is crucial to educate them on the dangers of using GPS navigation while driving.
The American public is in favor of driving laws that promote their safety and of technology that is appropriate for driving. A 2009 New York Times CBS News Poll found that 80% of respondents thought handheld telephones should be illegal and 97% thought texting should be illegal (CBS News). To avoid distracted driving, heavier no-phone legislation should be put in place. States themselves should adopt legislation more similar to Washington State, which began implementing an even stricter distracted driving law. Their law is branded as a DUI-E, or “driving under the influence of electronics,” with the minimum fine of $130. These fines are reported to the insurance company and appear on a driver’s permanent record. The Washington State Governor said, “You are just as dangerous or more so, when you are on a cell phone than a drunk driver” (18). Washington State’s laws completely ban handheld devices, even at stoplights. Other states, such as Colorado, increased driving penalties from $50 to $300 in 2017. Arkansas included social media in their ban, with a fine of $250 for the first offense and $500 for subsequent offenses. California expanded legislation in 2016 to ban handhelds while also declaring devices must be mounted on the windshield and operated by only a single swipe or tap (Kitch).
In order to effectively pass future legislation at the State and National level, it is vital to collect accurate data on crashes. However, under the current system, this data will still be limited. State Police Accident Reports vary across jurisdictions, creating inconsistencies. In some municipalities, police reports identify distraction as a distinct factor, whereas others rely upon witness accounts or other narratives. Given human nature’s tendency to not self-report bad behavior, distracted driving data could actually be lower than the true reality. Also, municipalities that rely on investigations after fatal crashes might not garner sufficient information to report a distracted driver.
To comprehensively combat distracted driving, the Association of the Advancement of Automotive Medicine recommends the importance of education and enforcement in addition to the passage of laws. In the past, this three-part strategy was effective in changing driver behavior. For example, in 1981, only 14% of Americans used a seatbelt despite 15 years of campaigns. After the passage of laws and subsequent enforcement, the rate of seatbelt use rose to 86% in 2012. Additionally, drunk driving used to be involved in 60% of fatal crashes. When the National Minimum Drinking Age Act was passed in 1984, all states were required to adopt the law or face budget cuts to their highway and transportation sectors. After campaigns and law enforcement, the number of drunk driving fatalities fell to 22,400 by 1990, only 6 years later (Chase). When addressing these past problems of driver behavior, this three part strategy of education, legislation, and enforcement was coordinated and therefore effective. This must be modeled when combating distracted driving. Additionally, it is crucial to roll-back any pre-emption laws in States which prohibit local communities and municipalities from enacting their own distracted driving bans. If these laws are going to be enforced by local police and sheriff offices, local jurisdictions should have the authority to enact new bans.
Additionally, teenagers should be targeted specifically in educational campaigns. The National Highway and Transportation Safety Administration suggests that parents and educational centers take the lead, encouraging teen drivers to take a pledge to stop risky driving behavior. 9% of 15-19 year olds still succumb to distracted driving, the highest percentage of all age groups (NHTSA and US Department of Transportation). Campaigns and policy measures should focus on protecting this group of young drivers and educating them on the dangers of all types of distracted driving – not just using their phones. These campaigns could happen inside schools during mandatory assemblies decided on by local counties and districts.
As we approach the future, new technology should be considered, such as the proposed “driving mode” on all smart phones. Other technology could be developed so that GPS screens turn off while driving and light upp with eye movement or physical movement when the car is stopped at a light. This would prevent drivers from entering passwords each time their GPS has gone into “sleep mode.” Policy makers should encourage innovation in navigational devices through research grants. Personally, I believe improving public safety is crucial by being an active public servant, informing friends, family, and neighbors about the dangers of distracted driving. As a future aspiring leader in the public sector, I will strive to protect my community in any way possible. We must enact laws, encourage enforcement, and run public campaigns to reveal the dangers of distracted driving and prioritize the safety and security of our communities.
Dailymail.com, Snejana Farberov For. “Zohra Hussain Killed in Crash after Husband Drove Car off Bridge Following GPS.” Daily Mail Online, Associated Newspapers, 30 Mar. 2015, www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3018364/Woman-killed-fiery-crash-husband-drove-car40-foot-bridge-GPS-didn-t-know-span-closed.html.
“Statistics on Driving While Texting” | GuardChild.” Parental Control Software to Monitor Kids on Their Computers, Cell Phones, IPads and Tablets, www.guardchild.com/distracteddriving-statistics/.
“U Drive. U Text. U Pay.” NHTSA, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 8 May 2019, www.nhtsa.gov/risky-driving/distracted-driving.
NHTSA, and US Department of Transportation. “Traffic Safety Facts.” Crash Stats, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, Apr. 2019, crashstats.nhtsa.dot.gov.
“Did Pokémon Go Really Kill 250 People in Traffic Accidents?” NewsScientist, 28 Nov. 2017, www.newscientist.com/article/2154881-did-pokemon-go-really-kill-250-people-intraffic-accidents/.
Governor’s Highway Safety Administration. “Distracted Driving Laws by State Updated April 2019.” Governor’s Highway Safety Administration, Governor’s Highway Safety Administration, Apr. 2019, www.ghsa.org/sites/default/files/201905/DistractedDrivingLawChart_May19.pdf.
U.S. Office of Personnel Management Historical Federal Workforce Tables. 2013 Available online at: https://www.opm.gov/policy-data-oversight/data-analysis-documentation/federal-employment-reports/historical-tables/executive-branch-civilian-employment-since-1940/ (Accessed 31 Oct. 2013)
Kitch, Ann. “State and Federal Efforts to Reduce Distracted Driving.” National Conference of State Legislators, June 2018, www.ncsl.org/research/transportation/state-and-federalefforts-to-reduce-distracted-driving.aspx.
Chase, Catherine. “US State and Federal Laws Targeting Distracted Driving.” Association for the Advancement of Automotive Medicine, US National Libraries of Medicine, National Institutes of Health, Mar. 2014, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4001667/. “Automated Vehicles for Safety.” NHTSA, 28 Nov. 2018, www.nhtsa.gov/technologyinnovation/automated-vehicles-safety.
“How Dashboards Contribute to Distracted Driving.” AMA, 1 May 2018, amainsider.com/dashboards-contribute-distracted-driving/.
Lowy, Joan. “Technology Crammed into Cars Worsens Driver Distraction.” AP NEWS, Associated Press, 5 Oct. 2017, apnews.com/23e2fbcf837348b69e5b5a8d1e3f2963.
Fottrell, Quentin. “GPS, Smartphones and Speed Keep Road Deaths at 10-Year High.” MarketWatch, 16 Feb. 2018, www.marketwatch.com/story/forget-texting-the-mostdangerous-distractions-for-drivers-come-with-the-car-2017-10-05. CBS News. “Are High-Tech Dashboards the New Culprit in Distracted Driving?” CBS News, CBS Interactive, 16 Nov. 2017, www.cbsnews.com/news/distracted-driving-infotainmentsystems-cars/.
“New Cars Are Being Crammed with Distracting Tech That Takes Drivers’ Eyes off the Road.” Business Insider, Business Insider, 5 Oct. 2017, www.businessinsider.com/ap-newcars-increasingly-crammed-with-distracting-technology-2017-10?IR=T.
“The New York Times/CBS News Poll on Distracted Driving.” The New York Times, The New York Times, Oct. 2009, www.nytimes.com/interactive/projects/documents/the-newyork-times-cbs-news-poll-on-distracted-driving.
Distracted Driving: A Plague to Road Safety
Distracted driving is rising steadily as a contributor to car accidents. In 2016, 3,450 people died in accidents caused by distracted driving. In 2017, 3,166 people died by the same means. Drivers today face many dangers on the road, however, distracted driving is quickly making a name for itself as a common and often times fatal source of motor vehicle accidents. It is a rising problem, and if it is not dealt with strictly, then it will come to plague driver safety.
Distracted driving is defined simply as any activity that causes a distraction to the driver. This could mean eating, talking, and most commonly, using the phone while driving. In this age of electronic social communication, many drivers today feel the need to respond to their phones even though they are driving. This phenomenon is quickly overtaking the roads and adding to the danger already present.
Drivers themselves are not able to moderate their phone use. If there isn’t a law about it, then it’s no concern of the driver. This mentality familiarizes itself with many people, whispering excuses to those who don’t consider distracted driving as a dangerous activity. An article written, stated that a poll taken by AAA showed that ninety-four percent of teens know using their phones while driving is dangerous, but thirty-four percent of them did it anyway.
Until stricter phone laws are put in place, drivers will continue to take advantage of the system and use their phones until serious consequences are instilled. New phone-use laws will act as protection to drivers, whether they like it or not, and lessen the dangers of distracted driving. By regulating the use of physical devices while driving, a new legislation can pave the way for safer roads.
Federal law has enforced rules against the use of cell phones for certain parties, but each state has its own laws and they are not all equal in terms of protection. Most of them ban texting while driving, but many of them do not ban hands-on talking. A new law should be federally enforced, banning any and all cell phone-use while driving, unless it is to answer calls through a hands-free device such as the car system.
Yes, this law would be very strict, but it would save more lives than if it were not implemented. Enforcing it would require officers and traffic cameras only to spot drivers with phones in their hands, and up to their ears. The results would possibly show lower vehicle accidents involving phone-use, keeping drivers safe from unnecessary crashes that would otherwise occur.
Of course, many people will see this law as a burden, considering they find it necessary to always be in contact with their mobile devices. So, a possible compromise would be hands free voice communication via the car system or other innovations. This would act as a hands-free way to be in contact with others without having to use the actual phone. Unfortunately, however, many drivers will most likely ignore this law until they are able to recognize the consequences of their actions.
Instilling a full ban on phone-use would at least bring awareness to the driver, that driving while using a phone in any way is distracting and dangerous. Enforcing the law with sizeable fines will work to keep offenders from repeating and act as a reminder that their actions could cause severe injury if not death. It only takes a few seconds of distraction to cause an accident. It only takes a few seconds to end a life. If sacrificing phone-use while driving could save a life, then it should be an enforced law for the protection of all drivers.
As a victim of distracted driving, I would petition this law and share with others why it is important. I was hit at forty miles per hour. The massive truck that smashed into the back of my small car totaled it and gave me lasting muscular injuries that have yet to cease after almost a year. She was distracted, and because of that, we both paid the price. This phone law could slow the rate at which these types of accidents occur and raise more awareness of how quickly an injury can come.
Drivers must realize that ceasing their own phone habits can save lives. And if a law is what it takes to lessen the death toll from distracted driving, then so be it. Banning phone usage while driving will be annoying to many, yes, but in the wake of an accident, it seems pitiless, nearly unbelievable that in the five seconds it took for a driver to look at their phone, someone could have died. Ten minutes of phoneless driving prevents a five-second accident. So, let us end this phone mania, and begin saving lives.
Andrew.firstname.lastname@example.org. (2019, April 15). U Drive. U Text. U Pay. Retrieved April 24, 2019, from https://www.nhtsa.gov/risky-driving/distracted-driving
NHTSA. (2018, April). Traffic Safety Facts: Distracted Driving 2016. Retrieved April 24, 2019, from https://crashstats.nhtsa.dot.gov/Api/Public/ViewPublication/812517
CDC. (n.d.). Distracted Driving | Motor Vehicle Safety | CDC Injury Center. Retrieved May 9, 2019, from https://www.cdc.gov/motorvehiclesafety/distracted_driving/index.html
GHSA. (n.d.). Distracted Driving. Retrieved April 24, 2019, from https://www.ghsa.org/state-laws/issues/Distracted-Driving
Edgar Snyder & Associates. (n.d.). Texting and Driving Accident Statistics – Distracted Driving. Retrieved April 24, 2019, from https://www.edgarsnyder.com/car-accident/cause-of-accident/cell-phone/cell-phone-statistics.html
Efforts against Distracted Driving
Adeline Grant Skovronek
Distracted driving has become a serious problem in the United Sates, especially since handheld devices became essentially ubiquitous. Awareness of the perils of eating, drinking, and doing other tasks while driving has been in the minds of mainstream America for decades now, but the advent of smart phones has brought a resurgence to the issue. People, especially parents, are tired of losing their teenage children and other loved-ones to distracted driving deaths. Many positive initiatives have been aimed at decreasing distracted driving, with the majority centered on education. Parents of teens killed in auto accidents caused by distracted drivers start non-profits; educators and professionals band together to present lectures at high schools, colleges, and business; and larger organizations as well as companies are constantly beginning campaigns to fight distracted driving. Eating, applying makeup, using a cell phone, or simply adjusting the radio in your car can take your attention off the road. With the onset of technology in everyday life, society has become noticeably more distracted, and it is no surprise that this trait has bled into our behavior while behind the wheel.
Over the past few years many non-profits have sprung up, started by the close friends and family of teenagers killed in car accidents caused by distracted driving – either on the part of the deceased or the driver of the other car. The Nikki Kellenyi Foundation – People Against Distracted Driving (PADD), is one such organization. Created in memory of Nikki, a high school senior killed by a distracted driver, the organization focuses on “partnering with local, sate and federal governments to promote the awareness and education of the consequences of distracted driving” (“Our Mission”). Such organizations frequently set up booths at fairs and markets as part of their outreach to local communities. These activities prove very effective, as they bring the consequences of distracted driving into the eyes of the community and help to raise awareness and further education on the issue. They move a step beyond the “don’t text and drive” signs that are usually posted along highways, and interacting directly with the drivers themselves on a personal and individual level.
End Distractive Driving is another organization started by the parent of a young woman killed by a distracted driver. It focuses on “advocacy, education, and actions” (“About EndDD”) and has a strong presence in education. The organization has a large group of volunteers, including safety experts, lawyers, doctors, and driver’s education instructors who give presentations across the country. Their audiences include high school and college students, hospitals, community groups and even businesses. EndDD’s goal is to educate drivers of all ages about the dangers of distractive driving and the important habits you can develop to keep your attention on the road. Instead of simply giving ultimatums, this organization provides its audiences with “steps that drivers can use” (“School Presentation”), practical techniques to keep you attentive and safe while behind the wheel. Educational action taken against distracted driving must have healthy practices with which to replace the negative habits, and organizations like EndDD are taking the first strides in developing new behaviors to foster safe and focused driving skills.
In April of 2016 an article was released discussing the new initiatives that Harvard’s Center for Health Communication are taking regarding distracted driving. The article, entitled “Putting the Brakes on Distracted Driving,” states that the new message focuses on behavioral changes drivers can make. Jay Winsten commented that most campaigns in the past centered on the “don’t” message and were successful in raising awareness but not in causing any major behavioral changes. Harvard’s strategy, however, is to promote defensive and “attentive driving,” while also “scanning for surprises” and maintaining a heightened level of “situational awareness” (Roeder). This new approach highlights the effectiveness of educating drivers and providing them with solutions, a much more beneficial track than just saying “don’t.” The focus on defensive practices is a crucial, and often overlooked, variable in the problem of distracted driving. Being on the road means taking responsibility not only for yourself, but others as well. It is a place where cooperation and compromise are required, but drivers shouldn’t rely on the assumption that others are constantly attentive. With this in mind, it is important to take preemptive measures against accidents, and recognize the responsibility for the safety of the other drivers that you hold. When taking this view, distracted driving becomes not only a threat to the distracted driver, but also a threat against the health and life of everyone else on the road.
Taking your eyes off the road for just a second – to grab a drink, check your phone, change the radio station – can result in car accidents, injuries or deaths, and in some states license suspensions as well. Not only is distracted driving dangerous, it is also irresponsible, for the distracted driver is unnecessarily endangering the lives of other drivers, passengers, and pedestrians. It is encouraging to see that not only are laws becoming stricter, but the number of organizations working to educate and promote safe driving habits is also growing.
“About EndDD.” End Distracted Driving, Casey Feldman Foundation, 2009, www.enddd.org/about-enddd/. Accessed 3 Apr. 2017.
“Our Mission.” Nikki’s Foundation to End Distracted Driving, People Against Distracted Driving, Oct. 2012, www.padd.org/index.php/en/about-us. Accessed 3 Apr. 2017.
Roeder, Amy. “Putting the Brakes on Distracted Driving.” Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, Harvard University, Apr. 2016, www.hsph.harvard.edu/news/features/putting-the-brakes-on-distracted-driving/. Accessed 3 Apr. 2017.