Distracted Driving Remains Serious Highway Safety Challenge

The Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA) is taking a stand against distracted driving, calling it “an emerging problem but a significant highway safety issue.”

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), in 2008, nearly 6,000 people were killed in crashes in which distracted or inattentive driving was a factor. Vernon F. Betkey Jr., GHSA’s chairman, recently met with Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood and officials from NHTSA to call attention to the issue of distracted driving. According to Betkey, the numbers reported by NHTSA are underreported because distracted driving data is difficult to collect.

“Certainly most of the attention has been on texting and driving, but there are a host of other distractions including cell phone calls (both handheld and hands-free) as well as more traditional ones such as eating, adjusting the radio, using the CD player or talking to passengers,” said Betkey. “Drivers need to be reminded to manage these distractions safely.”

According to Betkey, states are reacting quickly to driver distraction – 30 have banned texting for all drivers. As more data and research become available, he expects states to continue to act to regulate texting and cell phone use while driving. (For a full list of state laws regulating texting and cell phone use while driving, visit http://www.ghsa.org/html/stateinfo/laws/cellphone_laws.html.)

Betkey said that state highway safety agencies are committed to addressing driver distraction through a comprehensive approach including laws, education, enforcement, employer policies and the use of technology. Two weeks ago, GHSA released a new report detailing state distracted driving countermeasures. The report shows that states are implementing many strategies to combat driver distraction. The report is available online at http://www.ghsa.org/html/publications/survey/index.html.

“The federal and state governments are not trying to inconvenience drivers,” he noted. “Rather, we are trying to save their lives. No call, text or any other distraction is worth a life or serious injury.”

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