The Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA) and StopDistractions.org have announced a joint venture to reinforce the critical role of equitable enforcement in effectively combating distracted driving.
The two organizations are calling on US states to implement a comprehensive strategy that includes high visibility enforcement of texting and hand-held cellphone usage bans, coupled with extensive public outreach that explains how distraction takes a driver’s eyes and mind off the road and puts others – especially people outside vehicles – at risk.
“At any given moment during the day in the United States, nearly a half a million drivers are distracted behind the wheel,” says GHSA executive director Jonathan Adkins. “It’s a dangerous and deadly epidemic that is responsible for 8-10% of all fatal crashes, a statistic that has varied little in the past seven years. This problem demands a broad approach including engineering, technology advancements, education and equitable enforcement of strong laws.”
Crashes caused by distracted driving killed 3,142 people in the United States in 2019 – up 10% from the year before. With overall traffic fatalities surging in the first nine months of 2020 and evidence pointing to increased distracted driving during the Covid-19 pandemic, those numbers could climb even higher.
GHSA joins with StopDistractions.org, which was founded by Jennifer Smith, one of the nation’s preeminent road safety advocates. Smith lost her mother in a distracted driving crash in 2008, when a driver talking on a cellphone ran a red light. She has turned her unimaginable loss into action and has helped lead efforts in numerous states to strengthen distracted driving laws.
“Some state distracted driving laws are years old and have not kept pace with how rapidly this technology has evolved,” says Smith. “StopDistractions.org has been instrumental in modernizing state policy, as well as promoting fair and equitable enforcement of these laws by state and local police.”
“Anyone driving, walking or biking in America today sees motorist distraction all around them and recognizes that addressing it will be a critical part of both reversing the current surge in pedestrian fatalities and the push to achieve zero traffic deaths,” said Adkins.