US Government targeting distracted driving

Posted on June 22nd, 2012 by James Luckhurst

US Government targeting distracted drivingA NEW document circulating the road safety corridors of the United States could represent a major step forward in the battle to minimise distractions for drivers. The US Transportation Secretary, Ray LaHood, has released a ‘Blueprint for Ending Distracted Driving’ that offers a comprehensive strategy to address the practice of using a handheld phone while driving. The plan outlines the steps that everyone needs to take: and by everyone, they mean lawmakers, safety organisations, families and younger drivers.

The Blueprint outlines a plan that builds on the initiative that Mr LaHood and USDOT have taken over the last three years. Recognising the extent and complexity of the problem, the plan is designed to encourage the remaining 11 states without distracted driving laws, to enact and enforce the legislation, as well as challenging the automotive industry to adopt new and future guidelines for technology. The purpose of this is to reduce the potential for distraction on devices built or brought into vehicles, and there’s a commitment for the government to partner with driver education professionals to incorporate new curriculum materials that will educate novice drivers about driver distraction and its consequences.

Coinciding with the release of the Blueprint, Mr LaHood also announced US$2.4 million (£1.54 million) in federal support for California and Delaware that will expand USDOT’s ‘Phone in One Hand, Ticket in the Other’ pilot enforcement campaign to reduce distracted driving. The California programme will take place in the Sacramento valley region, comprising eight counties and 3.8 million residents, while the Delaware programme will be conducted across the state.

Mr LaHood noted said: “Distracted driving is an epidemic. While we’ve made progress in the past three years by raising awareness about this risky behavior, the simple fact is people are continuing to be killed and injured; and we can put an end to it. Personal responsibility for putting down that mobile phone is a good first step, but we need everyone to do their part, whether it’s helping pass strong laws, educating our youngest and most vulnerable drivers, or starting their own campaign to end distracted driving.”

At GEM, we will be watching this initiative with interest, as it is neatly aligned with our own commitment to reduce distractions for drivers. Approximately 211,000 motorists in the UK were prosecuted for mobile phone use in 2010, and a recent GEM member survey showed that 91 per cent of UK drivers believe penalties should be increased to act as more of a deterrent.