Dangerous driving habits like texting and talking on cell phones while driving can be “drastically reduced” when public awareness of the problem is increased and enforcement is ramped up, at least that’s the conclusion federal highway safety officials have reached based on two pilot programs that sought to kick distracted driving to the curb.
The pilot programs in Syracuse, New York and Hartford, Connecticut utilized an intensive media campaign and stepped up enforcement efforts to get drivers’ attention when it comes to distracted driving laws. The media campaign theme was “Phone in One Hand, Ticket in the Other” (somewhere Don Draper is shedding tears of jealousy into his Dewar’s).
The pilot programs were very effective, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, which did some before-and-after investigation to conclude that in Syracuse, both handheld cell phone use and texting behind the wheel decreased by one-third. And in Hartford, the NHTSA saw a 57 percent decrease in drivers’ use of handheld phones, plus a decline of almost 75 percent when it came to drivers’ texting behind the wheel.
Those numbers are encouraging, especially in light of some more stark statistics on distracted driving: 20 percent of injury car accidents in 2009 involved reports of distracted driving, according to the NHTSA, and drivers who use hand-held devices are four times as likely to get into crashes serious enough to injure themselves, says the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.