News: Consolidator Report
A study conducted by the Governors Highway Safety
Association (GHSA) indicates that evidence that cell phone and texting bans
reduce car crashes is inconclusive.
The GHSA, a nonprofit association representing the
highway safety offices of states, territories, the District of Columbia and
Puerto Rico, considered research from more than 350 scientific papers published
between 2000 and 2011.
The report, titled "Distracted Driving: What
Research Shows and What States Can Do," summarized what distracted driving
is, how often drivers are distracted, how distraction impacts driver
performance and crash risk, what countermeasures may be most effective and what
states can do to reduce distracted driving.
"Despite all that has been written about driver
distraction, there’s still a lot that we don’t know," said GHSA Executive
Director Barbara Harsha. "Much of the research is incomplete or
contradictory. Clearly, more studies need to be done addressing both the scope
of the problem and how to effectively address it."
The report outlines the following certainties:
Distractions affect driving performance.
Drivers frequently are distracted, perhaps as much as
half the time.
Drivers adapt to some extent: They pay more attention to
driving and reduce their distracting activities in more risky driving
Distractions are estimated to be associated with 15 to 25
percent of crashes at all levels from minor property damage to fatal injury.
Texting likely increases crash risk more than cell phone
Cell phone use increases crash risk.
Based on the existing research, the report urges states
to implement the following countermeasures:
Continue to leverage effective, low-cost roadway
countermeasures such as edgeline and centerline rumble strips, which alert
motorists when they’re drifting out of their driving lane.
Record distracted driving in crash reports to the extent
possible, to assist in evaluating distracted driving laws and programs.
Monitor the impact of existing hand-held cell phone bans
prior to enacting new laws. States that have not already passed hand-held bans
should wait until more definitive research and data are available on these
Evaluate other distracted driving laws and programs.
Evaluation will provide the information states need on which countermeasures
are effective and which are not.
The report also lists countermeasures that states should
consider, such as:
Enact a texting ban for all drivers and a complete cell
phone ban (both hands-free and hand-held) for novice drivers.
Enforce all existing cell phone and texting laws.
Implement distracted driving communication programs.
Help employers develop and implement distracted driving
policies and programs.
GHSA Executive Director Barbara Harsha stressed,
"While distracted driving is an emotional issue that raises the ire of
many on the road, states must take a research-based approach to addressing the
problem. Until more research is conducted, states need to proceed thoughtfully,
methodically and objectively."
Harsha also noted that high visibility texting and
hand-held cell phone enforcement demonstration projects in New York and
Connecticut, funded by the states and the U.S. Department of Transportation and
modeled after the Click It or Ticket seat belt program, are proving to be
effective in helping to change motorist behavior. "Our report includes the
preliminary results of these cell phone crackdowns, which have prompted
dramatic declines in hand-held cell phone use and texting behind the wheel. The
final results are expected shortly and should be considered as states move
forward with education and enforcement initiatives."