Statement on Distracted Driving Awareness Month

    • April 30, 2019
    150 150 Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety

    For Release: April 30, 2019

    Contact: Peter Daniels 202-408-1711/ (C) 301-442-2249, pdaniels@saferoads.org

    Statement of Cathy Chase, President of Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, On National Distracted Driving Awareness Month

    Distracted Driving is a deadly, year-round problem that requires urgent action by federal and state elected officials

    WATCH Cathy Chase talking about distracted driving on the April 23 episode of the CGTN Global Business broadcast.

    While Distracted Driving Awareness Month is nearing its end, every day nearly ten people fall victim to this deadly behavior on our roadways.  One of the top causes of traffic fatalities, distracted driving killed 3,166 people in 2017, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).  In 2015, the most recent year for which injury data is available, 391,000 people were injured in crashes involving a distracted driver.  Moreover, crashes in which at least one driver was identified as being distracted impose an annual economic cost of $40 billion dollars, based on 2010 data.  It is critical to note that these figures are known to underrepresent the problem because of gaps in police crash report coding, database limitations and other challenges.

    The positive news is that there are proven solutions on hand.  The SAFE TO DRIVE Act, a bipartisan bill introduced today by U.S. Representatives Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-IL) and Mike Gallagher (R-WI), awards federal grants to states that pass laws prohibiting texting or non-navigational viewing while driving.  The grant funds awarded to complying states can be used for enforcement of distracted driving laws, which is essential for police officers to ensure they have the needed resources.  We commend Reps. Krishnamoorthi and Gallagher for their leadership on this issue and urge Congress to swiftly pass this commonsense bill.

    While many are touting the potential solution of autonomous vehicles to solve the scourge of distracted driving, proven, life-saving technology, such as automatic emergency braking and lane departure warning systems, should be standard equipment in all new vehicles.  We urge Congress to direct the U.S. Department of Transportation to issue minimum performance requirements for these important technologies.

    Additionally, Arizona recently became the 44th state to enact a primary enforcement all-driver texting ban (See Roadmap of State Highway Safety Laws Report).  We urge lawmakers in the remaining six states (FL, MO, MT, NE, OH and SD) to take immediate action and acknowledge the overwhelming public support for state laws banning texting or emailing while driving.  Also, with the emergence of ready access to video chatting, games, social media, video streaming, recording and broadcasting, and distracting “apps” on devices, state lawmakers need to enhance texting ban laws to prohibit these and other distracting wireless communications device uses while driving.  Moreover, 20 states and DC need to advance cell phone bans for novice teen drivers as part of their graduated driver licensing (GDL) laws.  States with pending bills to enact this provision include Nebraska, New York and Pennsylvania.  We call upon these legislatures to send the bills to their governors’ desks with urgency.

    Sending or receiving a text message causes a driver’s eyes to be off the road for an average of 4.6 seconds.  When driving 55 miles per hour, this is the equivalent of driving blind the entire length of a football field.  We need all drivers to keep their hands on the wheel and their minds on the driving task to ensure the safety of all road users.  And, we urge our elected officials to demonstrate leadership and take action to end the plague of distracted driving.

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