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Distracted Driving: Part 2, Efforts to End Needless Car Accidents

April is National Distracted Driving Awareness Month. April 2010 kicked off a huge effort to enforce the texting and cellphone use laws in two cities. The pilot program called “Phone in one Hand, Ticket in the Other” was launched through law enforcement and public-education media campaigns. The results are in and, apparently, the program was extremely successful in Hartford, CT and Syracuse, NY. Police in both cities issued over 900,000 tickets to drivers for using their cellphones while driving. Driving with cellphones decreased 32% in Syracuse and 57% in Hartford. Texting while driving in Hartford declined by 72%. USA Today reports the National Highway Traffic Administration plans to continue the pilot program in undisclosed states. As a Georgia auto accident attorney, I think Atlanta would be a good place to test.

As discussed in our Distracted.

A study by the Insurance Institute of Highway Safety found the frequency of insurance claims increased in the studied states after texting bans were enacted. In the report, Adrian Lund, President of IIHS and HLDI, states the findings may indicate, “that texting bans might even increase the risk associated with texting for drivers who continue to do so despite the laws.”

Mr. Lund raises an interesting point.Electronics are not the only distractions we face. What is distracted driving? We automatically think cellphone use and texting. But consider this: Today while driving to work I changed the radio station three times, heard my phone beep twice to notify me of new email, thought about whether the car in front of me would make me miss the green light, and looked curiously at the tow-truck dealing with the stalled car on the other side of the road. Not once did I look at, talk on or text with my cellphone. However, all of these other actions distracted me from the task at hand, which was operating a large motor vehicle on a four-lane road with hundreds of other large motor vehicles. Failure to pay attention behind the wheel is an accident waiting to happen.

I do not believe the IIHS report results necessarily show the current laws are ineffective. Accidents increase when drivers are not only distracted by use of the cellphone, but also by scouting for police in hopes of not being caught. To me, the study suggests a problem with the ban being limited to one form of distraction, dispite a multitude of others– like when you change the radio station while you are talking to your friend about that awesome new song, or, as the stats showed us in Part 1, talking to your spouse about that awesome NPR report.
Regardless of the studies, we have laws banning cellphone use and/or texting while driving in most states with more being added. The bottom line is enforcement is on the rise. Avoid distracted driving and avoid a costly ticket, or worse. To see the laws in your state, see Part 1. If you have questions or want to find out how to get involved with the campaign against distracted driving, click here.

Distracted –driving programs show success by Larry Copeland, USA Today, July 10, 2011
Insurance Institute of Highway Safety Status Report, Vol.45, No. 10, Sept 28, 2010.
Justputitdown.com, “Phone in OneHand, Ticket in the Other” Campaign Shows Reduction in Distracted Driving by Kay Van Wey, July 12, 2011