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Ending distracted driving related to cell phone use while driving has been a priority issue for highway safety agencies and advocacy organizations for the last several years. Nearly 3000 accident fatalities each year can be attributed to distracted driving, making these some of the most preventable accidents on our nation’s roadways. They are also some of the most tragic, frequently involving young teenage drivers.

Momentum has been building on this issue with increased programming and policy efforts at the national level. Public education efforts, drafting sample legislation, prohibiting cell phone use while driving at the national level, and encouraging state action on this important issue have all served to bring the problem into focus. Most recently, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration launched a “Blueprint for Ending Distracted Driving”.

That Blueprint involves an attack on all fronts. Ending distracted driving can’t happen through legislation alone or education alone. Rather, a wide array of different actors, all using different strategies and tactics, are necessary to bring this safety issue under control. Among the key actions that NHTSA identifies as necessary are:

  • Enacting and enforcing tough state laws, particularly in those 11 states that do not have any legislation on this issue
  • Promoting technology to prevent distracted driving, such as crash warning and driver monitoring technologies, and create guidelines for portable devices that are used in cars
  • Better education for young drivers, including new curriculum on driver distraction and appropriate behaviors to prevent distracted driving
  • Promoting greater personal responsibility, where all drivers understand distracted driving and commit to end their own dangerous behaviors, exercising influence over friends and family as well
  • Continued advocacy work to help get legislation passed, policy changed, and educational initiatives launched in schools and communities nationwide

Ending distracted driving isn’t all that dissimilar from ending drunk driving or getting everyone to wear seatbelts. These are driver and passenger behaviors that all of us might engage in from time to time and they undoubtedly affect all of us. That means it will take all of us to bring an end to this hazardous driving habit.

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