FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
March 30, 2023
Contact: Adam Snider, 202-580-7930; 202-365-8971 (after hours)
Statement by Jonathan Adkins, Chief Executive Officer, Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA)
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Distracted driving is rampant on U.S. roads, but it’s also preventable. A new study released today by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) indicates that a comprehensive approach that includes strong state laws, equitable enforcement and public awareness can help tackle this persistent and deadly traffic safety problem. Distracted drivers killed at least 3,000 people in 2020, accounting for 8% of all traffic deaths – but those figures are likely undercounted due to the difficulties of proving distraction at the scene of a crash.
The IIHS survey of more than 2,000 U.S. drivers found that approximately half reported using an electronic device most or every time they drove over the previous month. Most drivers agreed that distracted driving increases the chances of a crash and that being reminded they might hurt or kill someone motivates them to stop. However, drivers who most often use a hand-held phone perceived less severe threats of distracted driving and greater barriers to addressing their distraction.
The study recommends that State Highway Safety Offices (SHSOs) seek new ways to increase the perceived threat of distracted driving and offer solutions to help drivers overcome barriers to putting down the phone, including navigation needs, time-sensitive/urgent communications, exchanges with friends and family, messages related to work and the convenience of not having to pull over to use the phone. The study provides evidence that appeals from friends and family can be powerful motivators to encourage safer driving, underscoring the value of changing the culture around distraction to make it socially unacceptable for anyone to use a cellphone while behind the wheel.
GHSA and General Motors (GM) are collaborating on distracted driving prevention and have provided a total of $210,000 to seven SHSOs to test new initiatives and expand successful anti-distracted driving programs based on the 29 recommendations in a comprehensive report released last year. Funded state programs include working with survivor advocates to put a face on the distracted driving problem, collecting stronger data to advocate for enhanced laws and educating the youngest road users to help make stowing the phone and focusing on the road the social norm.
GHSA and GM will also highlight the dangers of distracted driving this April, which is Distracted Driving Awareness Month, in a social media campaign that urges drivers to take a break from their phone every time they drive during the month so they form a lifelong safety habit that can protect not only themselves and their loved ones, but everyone who shares the road with them.
More information on state distracted driving laws is available on the GHSA website.
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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, enhance program management and promote best practices. Its members are appointed by their Governors to administer federal and state highway safety funds and implement state highway safety plans. Visit ghsa.org for more information or find us on Facebook and Twitter.