Policies and Priorities: Distracted Driving

Excerpted from GHSA's Highway Safety Policies & Priorities.

O. Driver Safety Issues

O.5 Distracted Driving
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.