Distracted driving has always been a problem. However, the advent of smartphones, GPS and similar handheld electronic devices has turned distracted driving into a national epidemic. Barely a day goes by where you can turn on the news and not hear about another wrongful death or grievous injury that was caused by a driver who was more focused on their phone than on the road.
Recent campaigns to raise awareness of the dangers of distracted driving have helped to reduce the number of accidents, both nationwide and in Tennessee. However, crash rates are still far too high.
Thankfully, distracted driving has become something of a pet issue for U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, and his agency has taken great steps to address the problem. Its newest campaign called the “Blueprint for Ending Distracted Driving” outlines steps that lawmakers, families, young drivers and safety organizations can take to help lower the number of accidents and fatalities caused by distracted driving.
While most states, including Tennessee, have distracted driving laws, 11 still do not. The plan encourages these 11 holdout states to implement and enforce legislation for distracted driving. It also asks automakers to adopt new technology to reduce in-car distractions.
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In addition, the campaign encourages driver education professionals to teach students about distracted driving and what could happen if drivers take their attention off the road. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has shown that young drivers under 25 years of age are up to three times more likely to drive distracted.
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Furthermore, two states will receive $2.4 million in federal money for increased police enforcement programs and media coverage of distracted driving – a pilot program modeled after the “Click it or Ticket” seatbelt enforcement campaign. If successful, the program could be expanded nationwide.
While these efforts will certainly help raise awareness, the only true way to prevent distracted driving accidents is for motorists to take personal responsibility for their own driving habits. We all need to put down our phones and focus on the road.