Federal Government Issues: ‘Blueprint for Ending Distracted Driving’

I have represented many clients who were injured as a result of the actions of a distracted driver. The use of hand held cell phones behind the wheel continues to be a deadly problem that many now view as an epidemic. On June 7, 2012, United States Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood released a “Blueprint for Ending Distracted Driving” which contains a comprehensive strategy to address the problem of distracted driving and take action to reduce the number of accidents, injuries and deaths that are caused by distracted driving each year.

The Blueprint plan hopes to build upon the previous efforts made by the U.S. Department of Transportation while under the leadership of Secretary LaHood. Beginning in 2009, the Federal Government launched a national campaign to raise awareness about distracted driving and identify strategies to fight the problem. Some of those efforts have included:

  • Distracted driving summits.
  • The launch of www.distraction.gov – the first ever Federal web site dedicated to educating the public on the dangers of distracted driving.
  • “Faces of Distraction”  – an online video series that highlights the deadly consequences of texting and cell phone use while driving.
  • Partnering with various companies on advertising at the national and local levels to highlight the issue.
  • Issuing public polices including an October 2009 Executive Order prohibiting Federal employees from texting while driving government vehicles or using government issued cell phones while driving any vehicle.
  • Research and development programs by the U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).

This latest attempt by the Federal Government to address the “distraction epidemic” we face on the roadways includes the following highlights[1]:

  • Enact and enforce tougher state laws. 39 states have at least some type of distracted driving laws including 10 states that have passed laws banning all hand-held phone use by drivers. The Government now wants to encourage the 11 states without distracted driving laws to pass legislation.
  • Address technology by challenging the auto-makers to adopt new and future guidelines for technology to reduce the distraction potential from devices built or brought into vehicles.
  • Better educate young drivers by partnering with driver education professionals to incorporate new curriculum materials to educate novice drivers.
  • Personal Responsibility and beyond. The plan provides all interested parties (from drivers, parents, teens, educators, employers, industry and government) with actions they can take to go beyond personal responsibility to help end this problem.

The need to do even more to reduce the frequency of distracted driving is obvious.  Distracted driving remains a common and dangerous occurrence on our highways.  In 2010, the NHTSA reported that distraction-affected crashes in the U.S. killed 3,092 people, accounting for one in every ten fatalities on the roadways.  An additional 416,000 were estimated to have been injured.[2]

While distracted driving can be defined as any activity that diverts your attention from driving, the use of a cell phone was the reported distraction in 18% of those distraction-related fatalities.[3]   Studies have shown that texting takes a driver’s eyes off the road for an average of 4.6 seconds which is the equivalent of driving the length of an entire football field at a speed of 55 mph.[4]  Thus, it is easy to see why those same studies show that texting creates a crash risk 23 times higher than driving while not distracted.[5]

Since we live in a society that is currently flooded with devices and services designed to keep us connected 24 hours a day, most likely distracted driving will not be completely eliminated.  However, we can all take steps to reduce the risks and deadly consequences caused by distracted driving. As Secretary LaHood said “Personal responsibility for putting down that cell 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.”[6]

At Allen and Allen, we support efforts to reduce distracted driving and to make our roads and highways safer.  Please put down that cell phone while you are driving and concentrate on your driving.  Working together, we can help reduce this danger to ourselves, our friends, our families, and our community.

About the Author: Fredericksburg, VA car accident lawyer David M. Williams, Jr. is experienced in the litigation and resolution of car accident claims, wrongful death, medical malpractice and products liability cases.  David has successfully argued multiple cases before the Virginia Supreme Court in more than 15 years of experience with personal injury law.

[1] See NHTSA Press Release dated June 7, 2012, at http://www.nhtsa.gov/About+NHTSA/Press+Releases/2012/DOT+Sec.+LaHood+Issues+Blueprint+for+Ending+Distracted+Driving,+Announces+$2.4+Million+for+California,+Delaware+Pilot+Projects.
[2]  See NHTSA Press Release at footnote 1 above.
[3]  See statistics and information at www.distraction.gov.
[4]  See statistics and information at www.distraction.gov.
[5]  See statistics and information at www.distraction.gov.
[6] See NHTSA Press Release at footnote 1 above.