FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
November 1, 2023
Contact: Adam Snider, 202-580-7930, 202-365-8971 (after hours)
Grants will support multidisciplinary local prevention programs and youth journalists highlighting the impacts of this dangerous driver behavior
WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA) and General Motors (GM) are advancing their work together to end the persistent and deadly problem of distracted driving by supporting innovative new ways to address this dangerous behavior. As part of GHSA and GM’s continued collaboration focused on changing the social norm, GHSA is awarding two grants to create and evaluate local distracted driving prevention programs in the District of Columbia (D.C.) and Washington state. A third grant is supporting youth journalists in diverse and underserved communities who will highlight how distracted driving endangers everyone on the road.
Distracted drivers killed 3,522 people and injured another 362,415 in 2021, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). But the numbers are likely higher due to chronic underreporting. Distracted driving impacts everyone on the road, not just drivers and their passengers – and is especially dangerous for people walking, biking or scooting. Nearly one-fifth (644) of these deaths in 2021 were people outside a motor vehicle. While looking at or typing on a cell phone are the most common forms of distracted driving, it also includes eating, grooming, changing the radio or navigation system, engaging with passengers, reaching for objects in the back seat and other activities that take the driver’s mind and eyes off the road.
To combat this persistent yet preventable problem, GHSA has awarded two grants of $87,500 each to the State Highway Safety Office (SHSO) in D.C. and Washington state to create, implement and evaluate holistic initiatives focused on eliminating distracted driving. Washington state and D.C. will use the grant funds in a variety of ways:
- The District Highway Safety Office (D.C. HSO) will implement a three-pronged approach to combat distracted driving. This will include developing and implementing neighborhood-specific campaigns for each of the District’s eight Wards to raise awareness of the danger distracted driving poses for people outside the vehicle. An evidence-based, peer-to-peer micromobility education program for middle school students will be initiated in partnership with Impact Teen Drivers, a nonprofit working to create a distraction-free culture. The D.C. HSO will also explore the feasibility of expanding the District’s automated traffic enforcement program to include equipment that can detect distracted drivers.
- The Washington Traffic Safety Commission (WTSC) will use a multidisciplinary approach to pilot and evaluate a distracted driving prevention project in Pierce Co., the state’s second most populated county. Pre-intervention data will be collected in the county’s 23 cities and at least three active school zones to determine the extent and nature of the distracted driving problem. WTSC will use this information to conduct high visibility enforcement, develop and implement community-specific distracted driving campaigns that include the innovative use of driver feedback signs that detect cell phone use, and engage local leaders and partners in outreach efforts that promote adoption of a positive traffic safety culture where distracted driving is socially unacceptable. WTSC will evaluate the project’s effectiveness to determine the feasibility of using federal funding to implement it statewide.
GHSA also is partnering with Youthcast Media Group (YMG), a nonprofit that trains high school and college students from underserved communities, more than 95% of whom are youth of color, to write about and report on often overlooked health and social issues, such as traffic safety. YMG will work with student journalists at high schools in Connecticut, D.C., Florida, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and Virginia to highlight data illustrating the extent of the problem and show the personal toll of distracted driving through profiles of victims and their families. Youth working with YMG will also develop a digital toolkit that includes social media posts that SHSOs and their partners can use to engage with 16- to 24-year-olds.
Empowering youth to speak up about distracted driving and other traffic safety concerns can help change the social norm around distraction and safe road use. The data show young drivers – the most dangerous age group on the road – are more likely than their older counterparts to use a cell phone while behind the wheel. NHTSA’s National Occupant Protection Use Survey, which measures observed electronic device use by drivers, found that 5.4% of 16- to 24-year-old drivers were observed manipulating a handheld device in 2021. This is notably higher than other age groups (3.4% for 25-to 69-year-olds and 0.4% for drivers 70 and older).
“Distraction is a ‘dirty little secret’ that few drivers want to talk about. Distracted drivers kill people every day, yet surveys show most drivers think others are the problem, not themselves. We need creative solutions and new ways of thinking to meaningfully shift public opinion on this deadly behavior,” said GHSA Chief Executive Officer Jonathan Adkins. “I’m pleased to see GHSA and GM expand our collaboration to include evaluating local prevention programs and empowering youth in areas that have historically been impacted by traffic violence to use their voices to speak up about this preventable problem.”
These initiatives build on GHSA and GM’s shared focus on eliminating distracted driving and changing the social norm. In 2022, GHSA and GM released a comprehensive report that examined data shortcomings and other obstacles impacting efforts to reduce distracted driving, reviewed SHSO initiatives and the challenges impacting those efforts, and offered 29 recommendations to help combat this deadly driving behavior. Last year, GHSA and GM also awarded $210,000 in grants to seven SHSOs to implement recommendations in the report. More information about each state’s efforts 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 X/Twitter.
General Motors (NYSE:GM) is a global company focused on advancing an all-electric future that is inclusive and accessible to all. At the heart of this strategy is the Ultium battery platform, which will power everything from mass-market to high-performance vehicles. General Motors, its subsidiaries and its joint venture entities sell vehicles under the Chevrolet, Buick, GMC, Cadillac, Baojun and Wuling brands. More information on the company and its subsidiaries, including OnStar, a global leader in vehicle safety and security services, can be found at gm.com.