Better and Worse Ways to Fight Distracted Driving *UPDATED

Texting while driving kills

*UPDATE: In a very interesting interview, NHTSA Administrator David Strickland discusses how the agency views distracted driving as an educational problem it is treating in a way similar to the seatbelt campaigns of the ‘90s. He contends the agency is not trying to regulate smart-phones, but when these devices enter the car and connect with it, “Who actually regulates that?” Safety has to be the bottom line in mobile apps.

The comment below by Cygel White is not the kind we normally accept in this blog, since it is clearly promotional in nature. We did make an exception here because of its relevance to the issue.

One of the ways that’s sure to have little or no impact on distracted drivers is the Department of Transportation’s new ad-trailer/PSA (see after the break). It uses the cute, lovable, animated car characters from the new Disney movie “Cars 2” to totally undercut its serious voice-over message about texting.

Maybe they think this sort of appeal to ten-year-olds who text and don’t drive will prevent accidents. Maybe they think that most texters have a ten-year-old mentality anyway (which may indeed be true).

Anyhow, multiple-language, international versions will be offered. More of your DOT money at work. Disney should be paying them for permission to use its cars in a public–service ad.

Another genius idea has come from the Ontario County, NY, Sheriff’s Office. They want drivers to pull over,

write down the offender’s license plate number, date, time, location and a short description of the vehicle, then call 911—but only when it’s safe to do so! Once the info is received by the Sheriff’s dept. it’s verified against DMV records and a warning letter is sent to the driver of the car.

Send them a warning letter?! And of course, drivers who want to avoid this reporting hassle will just phone or text in this info while they’re still driving!

The better way is simply to disable the phone from texting or receiving messages, or simply shut it off. DOT is evaluating the technology (a good use of our money), and several companies have developed the means to link phone service to GPS to determine whether the car is moving or not, shutting off the phone if it is. Passengers can still text.

An Irish company has bought into the technology, and so should the DOT. Texters cause at least 20 percent of injury crashes in the U.S, killing 5,474 people in 2009. They are four times more likely to be in serious crashes.

State legislatures are finally reacting, tightening loopholes, making tougher laws and generating much stronger enforcement.

How about upping insurance premiums for repeat offenders who text? Would you be in favor of that?

—jgoods

Find Used Cars in Your Area at CarGurus

4 Comments

  1. I just read an article in the local paper about a kid who killed his own grandmother in a crash caused when he texted while driving. He got 30 days in jail plus a year probation, and how knows? He might even inherit some of his victim’s stuff. Distracted driving shoud carry the same penalties as drunk driving (it’s a proven fact that it’s even more dangerous because people who would never drink and drive will drive distracted) and that includes criminalization for repeat offenses, car confiscation and other harsh penalities.
    The future is that this problem will persist until lawmakers force cars and phones be equipped with electronics that turn phones off when in a car. (moving or not– want to call? stop and shut off the car.)

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