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Distracted Driving

Driver distraction is a leading factor in many crashes, and cell phone use and texting are two of the most common distractions. Many states and local jurisdictions are passing laws that address these behaviors. GHSA's message to all drivers remains: don't use cell phones or other electronic devices while driving, regardless of the current law.

In 2012, GHSA broadened its distracted driving policy to include a recommendation for states to ban hand-held cell phone use for all drivers. (Previously, GHSA's policy supported only text messaging bans for all drivers). GHSA continues to support restrictions of all electronic device use by novice drivers and school bus drivers.

While texting and hand-held bans are both critical, texting bans by themselves can be difficult to enforce. In states with texting but not hand-held bans, a driver may claim they were dialing a phone number when stopped by a police officer. Recent enforcement projects in specific New York and Connecticut localities have shown that hand-held cell phone bans can be enforced effectively and can reduce driver use of a cell phone. See below for the specific policy language.

In 2011, GHSA released Distracted Driving: What Research Shows and What States Can Do. The report summarizes what distracted driving is, how often drivers are distracted, how distraction impacts driver performance and what countermeasures may be most effective as well as what states can do to reduce distracted driving.

Among the findings:

Based on the existing research, the report urges states to:

In 2009, GHSA joined a coalition of safety and transportation groups in writing letters to key members of the U.S. House pdf icon [46 KB, 3 pgs.] and Senate pdf icon [47 KB, 3 pgs.] advocating a broad approach to distracted driving and supporting a strong federal role.

GHSA Policy

Excerpted from GHSA's Highway Safety Policies & Priorities PDF icon [115 KB, 27 pgs.]

O. Driver Safety Issues

O.5 Distracted Driving (Revised August 2012)
There are many distractions which may prevent a driver from focusing on the complex task of driving: changing the radio or a CD, talking to passengers, observing an event outside the vehicle, using an electronic device, etc. Navigational and other interactive devices, called telematics, in the vehicle are available in most vehicles and more will be available in the near future. These devices may also distract drivers.

The federal government should fund considerably more research to determine the scope and nature of the distracted driving problem, effective countermeasures and the effect of telematics on driving behavior. Further, the federal government should fund a comprehensive media campaign to educate the public about the dangers of distracted driving and the way to manage driver distractions. GHSA opposes federal legislation that would penalize states for not restricting the use of cell phones or other electronic devices.

Producers and providers of electronic devices should also undertake a major educational campaign to inform the public about the proper use of these devices.

As part of their federal traffic safety grant agreement, states should encourage grantees to adopt policies that ban text messaging while driving. State agencies should also be encouraged to enact bans on texting and driving that are similar to the federal ban.

As part of a state’s graduated licensing law, novice drivers should be prohibited from text messaging or using cell phones and other electronic devices for non-emergency purposes while driving.

GHSA supports state legislation that would ban hand-held cell phone use and text messaging for all drivers, electronic devices used for entertainment purposes with video screens that are within view of the driver and school bus drivers from text messaging or using electronic devices except in an emergency.

GHSA believes that, when on the road, all drivers should not text message, use cell phones or
other electronic devices, faxes, computers or other distracting devices except to report a crash to
emergency responders. If a driver must use such devices to make a call or report an emergency,
the driver should first stop in a parking lot or other protected area.