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To Ban or Not to Ban? Solutions to Cell Phone Use and Driving Require More Research and Thoughtful Analysis

July 29, 2009

WASHINGTON, July 29 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — The following statement is attributable to Vernon F. Betkey, Jr., Chairman, Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA):

This week’s release of a landmark study on cell phone use and distracted driving by the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute (VTTI) provides important new data about the problem, but also raises significant questions about countermeasures to address the dangers associated with cell phone use and texting while driving.

Researchers at VTTI concluded that text messaging increased the risk of a crash or near miss 23 times for heavy vehicle/truck operators. The findings were stated to be applicable to drivers of light vehicles and cars. Surprisingly, the risk of dialing a cell phone was significantly less than texting, while the risk of talking or listening on a cell phone was almost negligible. Previous studies from the University of Utah, Carnegie Mellon University and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety placed a much higher risk on cell phone use.

GHSA has never doubted the dangers of cell phone use and texting while driving. The Association focuses on a “no-use” message and seeks to restore some common sense to driving. However, GHSA has not yet supported a complete ban on the practice because of the difficulty of enforcing such laws.

We are pleased to learn that later this year the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) will conduct an enforcement demonstration project to attempt to showcase how a state can effectively enforce a cell phone ban. GHSA strongly supports this effort. Highway safety laws are only effective if they can be enforced and if the public believes they will be ticketed for not complying. To date, that has not been the case with many cell phone restrictions.

GHSA’s full membership has not reviewed the organization’s current cell phone policy since 2006. Numerous studies and better data have become available since that time and the Association will review our policy based on this new information. With this data and the development of an effective enforcement approach, I expect GHSA would support a total cell phone/texting ban. While more research is being conducted to examine the effectiveness of laws and development of other countermeasures, GHSA urges that:

  • States ban all non-emergency cell phone use/text messaging for new drivers including teen drivers. The bans for new drivers should be enforced primarily by parents as part of graduated licensing laws. Fourteen states plus D.C. currently have these laws.
  • States include a category for cell phone/electronic equipment distraction on crash investigation forms. At least 29 states plus D.C. currently include this information.
  • The federal government fund a media campaign to alert the public to the dangers of distracted driving. This effort is needed to help develop a culture that will make the practice socially unacceptable much the same way that drunk driving has become with the vast majority of the public.
  • The federal government continue to fund research on distracted driving, particularly the effectiveness of various countermeasures and new technological applications that would limit or eliminate distractions.
  • Employers implement policies banning cell phone/texting use by all employees during working hours.

Current Cell Phone Laws are posted online at http://ghsa.org/html/stateinfo/laws/cellphone_laws.html.

The Governors Highway Safety Association(R) (GHSA) is a nonprofit association representing the highway safety offices of states, territories, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. GHSA provides leadership and representation for the states and territories to improve traffic safety, influence national policy and enhance program management. Its members are appointed by their Governors to administer federal and state highway safety funds and implement state highway safety plans.

SOURCE Governors Highway Safety Association


Source: newswire



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