Federal Funds to Increase Distracted Driving Enforcement in California

The U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary announced yesterday that California and Delaware will receive $2.4 million to support the federal government’s latest initiative to reduce distracted driving. This program will test the effect of increased law enforcement and high-profile public education campaigns on distracted driving. The California program will take place in the Sacramento valley region comprising eight counties and 3.8 million residents and is set to begin in fall 2012.

“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,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. “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.”

The plan is entitled “Blueprint for Ending Distracted Driving” and it outlines a plan that builds on the national momentum that Secretary LaHood and USDOT have spearheaded for the last three years. Recognizing the extent and complexity of the problem, the plan:

Encourages the remaining 11 states without distracted driving laws to enact and enforce this critical legislation.

  • Challenges the auto industry to adopt new and future guidelines for technology to reduce the potential for distraction on devices built or brought into vehicles.
  • Partners with driver education professionals to incorporate new curriculum materials to educate novice drivers of driver distraction and its consequences. Data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) show drivers under the age of 25 are two to three times more likely than older drivers to send text messages or emails while driving.
  • Provides all stakeholders with actions they can take that go beyond personal responsibility to helping end distracted driving nationwide.

It is important to note how serious this problem has become in the United States. In 2010, at least 3,092 people were killed in distraction-affected crashes – accounting for approximately one in every ten fatalities on the nation’s roadways. Meanwhile, among the findings from NHTSA’s first nationally-representative telephone survey on driver distraction released earlier this year, more than three-quarters of drivers reported that they are willing to answer calls on all, most, or some trips. Survey respondents acknowledged few driving situations when they would not use the phone or text, and yet reported feeling unsafe when riding in vehicles in which the driver is texting and supported bans on texting and cell phone use. Almost all respondents (about 90% overall) reported that they considered a driver who was sending or reading text messages or e-mails as very unsafe.

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