FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
October 28, 2009
Contact: Jonathan Adkins or Barbara Harsha
(202)789-0942, ext. 13 or 12
GHSA Chairman Takes Distracted Driving Message to Congress
Highway Safety Group to Testify on Distracted Driving Solutions
WASHINGTON, D.C.—GHSA Chairman Vernon F. Betkey, Jr. will testify at a hearing before the U.S. House of Representatives Transportation and Infrastructure Committee's Subcommittee on Highways and Transit on Thursday, October 29th beginning at 9:30 a.m. The theme of the hearing is "Addressing the Problem of Distracted Driving."
Betkey will outline GHSA's position on the topic and stress the association's desire for a comprehensive approach to problem. Betkey's written statement is posted online at www.ghsa.org/html/issues/pdf/dist/2009.10.29.testimony.pdf [154 KB, 7 pgs.]. Among Betkey's points:
- GHSA firmly believes the problem of distracted driving is significant and is only likely to increase in the future.
- To determine the scope of the problem, it is necessary to examine distracted driving data from many sources, using different databases and types of research studies.
- Research about the safety of hands-free versus hand-held cell phone use is not definitive, and more study is needed.
- There have been no studies on the effectiveness of text message bans. Neither have there been studies on the risks associated with using MP3 players, GPS systems and other nomadic devices while driving. All of these areas should be studied.
- Regarding legislation, GHSA takes a cautious approach and supports texting bans for all drivers as well as complete cell phone bans for novice driers and school bus drivers. Due to the uncertainties about the effectiveness of hand-held versus hands-free cell phone bans, GHSA has not supported either a hand-held ban or a complete ban. GHSA believes a hand-held ban may give some drivers a false sense of safety that hands-free devices are safe. Additionally, the type of hands-free devices/ear pieces currently allowed by some states is not the same as the voice-activated hands-free devices recommended by the frequently cited Virginia Teach Transportation Institute study.
- Legislation alone will not solve the problem. Law enforcement must be given the training and resources to aggressively enforce bans, and the judiciary must be trained on the purpose and efficacy of bans.
- A broad, federal social norming educational campaign should be created to influence driver behavior at the community level. Educational efforts in conjunction with high-visibility enforcement have successfully resulted in drivers buckling up and not driving drunk. These concepts should also be applied to distracted driving.
- Both the state and federal governments will need significantly more funding to enforce distracted driving laws, purchase paid media to support the enforcement, train law enforcement and the judiciary and enhance data collection. Currently, no federal highway safety grant program exists to deal with this need. State highway safety agencies that wish to address distracted driving are forced to divert funding from drunk driving, seat belt, child passenger safety and other proven effective highway safety programs.
On a related note, last week, a coalition of safety and transportation groups sent a letter to members of the House and Senate advocating a broad approach to distracted driving. These groups also all oppose any federal sanction that would require states to act on distracted driving or lose vital highway funding. Signees were AAA, American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators, American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials, American Highway Users Alliance and GHSA. The letters are posted online at www.ghsa.org/html/issues/pdf/dist/House10.09.pdf [47 KB, 3 pgs.] and www.ghsa.org/html/issues/pdf/dist/Senate10.09.pdf [47 KB, 3 pgs.].
# # #
Chairman Betkey's written statement is posted here: www.ghsa.org/html/issues/pdf/dist/2009.10.29.testimony.pdf [154 KB, 7 pgs.].
State Cell Phone and Texting Laws are available at: www.ghsa.org/html/stateinfo/laws/cellphone_laws.html.
To watch the hearing live, visit http://transportation.house.gov and click the "View Web Cast" button at the time of the hearing.
The Governors Highway Safety Association (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. Contact GHSA at 202-789-0942 or visit www.ghsa.org.