Monday, March 24, 2014
U.S. DOT Launches National Distracted Driving Enforcement and Advertising Campaign
- Cell-phone distracted driving is a growing trend. US DOT/NHTSA is testing and demonstrating countermeasures that States and communities can apply to combat distracted driving, chiefly distracted driving caused by drivers not putting down their phones and paying attention to the most important task – driving safely.
- Research findings released today are a continuation of previous DOT/NHTSA research, similar to intense media and enforcement campaigns used to curb alcohol-impaired driving and increase seat belt use.
- Findings released in 2011 showed strong State distracted driving laws coupled with enforcement and media outreach over a specified period, dubbed high-visibility enforcement (HVE), can be an effective countermeasure against cell-phone related distracted driving in a community setting. Results from the pilots that took place in Hartford, CT and Syracuse, NY revealed drivers using hand-held cell phones while driving dropped 57% in Hartford and 32% in Syracuse (See: Four High Visibility Enforcement Waves in Connecticut and New York Reduce Hand-Held Phone Use (2011, DOT HS 811 845)).
- Having learned that distracted driving HVE can reduce observed cell phone use at the community-level, the next step was to test its application over a larger geographic and demographic area involving multiple jurisdictions and enforcement agencies of varying sizes.
In summer 2012, NHTSA partnered with California and Delaware (both States have primary enforcement hand-held and texting bans) to test the feasibility of widespread distracted driving HVE.
- Findings from the current demonstrations show hand-held cell phone use rates in California decreased significantly from 4.1% to 2.7% from baseline to the end of the last enforcement wave. Drivers in Delaware also showed a significant decrease in hand-held phone (4.5% to 3.0%) by the end of the final enforcement wave.
- Survey respondents in the Sacramento area who heard about enhanced police enforcement increased from 56% to 73%. In Delaware the change was 28% to 38% by program’s end.
- There were also declines in observed hand-held phone use in the comparison sites. However, the declines in observed hand-held phone use in Delaware and California suggest that conducting high visibility enforcement over large multi-jurisdiction or statewide areas is feasible and may reduce cell phone distracted driving.
- Since the majority of States (42) have texting only bans that apply to all-drivers, NHTSA has a project underway in Connecticut and Massachusetts communities to develop and refine effective texting enforcement strategies. Two of the four planned enforcement waves have been completed. The final waves is scheduled for late fall 2014 with data collection scheduled to be completed by February 2015.