The proliferation of the cell phone has caused an unprecedented driving safety crisis across the nation. Safe drivers of the past have now become dangerous drivers as they take eyes off the road and hands off the steering wheel to use a cell phone to talk, text, navigate, check email, and a host of other functions. This, together with the fact that cell phone use is habit-forming and additive, has resulted in a new universe of roadway risk.
In the past, State transportation officials, have been able to address driving safety priorities through campaigns that target a particular form of outlawed driver conduct. Typically, these campaigns have relied upon traffic tickets and fines to coax drivers to be safe.
However, because the costs associated with enforcing distracted driving laws are very high and manpower intensive, we can no longer rely upon laws and law enforcement to combat distracted driving. Instead, it will be important that future distracted driving prevention efforts, including anti-cell phone, campaigns emphasize the following:
1) Alert To Risk
Surveys and studies show that American drivers generally understand the high risk of cell phone use while driving as it pertains to other drivers. However, they are far less likely to the perceive high risk of using a cell phone while driving when they are in the driver’s seat.
Therefore, we are advocating that effective distracted driving prevention has its foundation in alerting drivers to the risk posed by other drivers. For example, the Drive By Example “Protect Yourself” campaign is designed to influence drivers to protect themselves against other drivers who may be using a cell phone.
Not only does this campaign encourage defensive driving, but is also works to “villainize” cell phone distracted driving.
2) Socially Unacceptable Activity
Related to the above concept, an effective method of changing the public perception of cell phone use (or other activities that take a driver’s eyes from the road ahead) is to associate distracted driving with drunk driving. When the dangers of distracted driving are seen as on par with drunk driving, drivers will be less willing to engage in distracted driving because it exhibits socially unacceptable conduct.
3) Higher Standards
One of the reasons the Drive By Example platform is an effective driver safety tool is because the phase “drive by example” encourages driver’s to be more attentive behind the wheel. If we are going to make improvement in our driving culture, the driving safety campaigns and initiatives we implement must target all drivers and influence drivers to model a “highest degree of care” driving approach.
Teen Driver Distracted Driving Prevention
Because of inexperience and the tendency to be addicted to their cell phones, teen drivers are very vulnerable for a distracted driving accident. Although current efforts to warn teens of risk associated with texting and other cell phone use been successful, teen driver protection would be significantly enhanced if driver safety education was made part of the High School Health curriculum.
In addition to driver safety education, Drive By Example is advocating for state lawmakers to strengthen the Graduated Driver Licensing laws by mandating parent education, engagement, and endorsement in the licensing process. Parents hold the key when it comes to distracted driving prevention.
Adult Distracted Driving Prevention
As of 2015, almost all of the distracted driving prevention programs have been targeted to teen drivers. While teen drivers are very vulnerable to distracted driving, adults make up the largest number of distracted drivers. As adults become more accustomed to depending upon their smart phones to manage all aspects of their life, the distracted driving problem is expected to get much worse.
Drive By Example stands for the proposition that distracted driving prevention efforts should target all drivers, including working adults. In this regard, driving safety partnerships should be established with private sector organizations, including business firms and corporations. Drive By Example’s Corporate Protection Platform is an example of how driving safety can be extended to adult drivers.