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Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Mobile phones and ‘distracted driving’

The Washington Post reports today that safety provisions included in the transportation bill signed into law by President Obama this month may encourage states to adopt or strengthen laws intended to protect teenage (and other) drivers from "distracted driving." Distracted driving means engaging in any activity while driving that has the potential to distract the driver from attentive driving. One of the key driving distractions is of course making phone calls or texting while at the wheel. There have been many high profile cases and fatal accidents involving people (many of them teens) who were text messaging while driving. The Post says the new federal highway law marks the first time the federal government has spelled out such standards. It provides $46 million for incentive grants for states to implement or strengthen distracted-driving programs for all drivers over the next two years. It also includes $27 million for states that adopt certain standards, including prohibiting cellphone use or communicating by device in non-emergency situations, for their graduated licensing programs. States can use the grant money for education, training and enforcement. To learn about your state's restrictions on driving while texting and/or using a mobile phone, visit the Governors Highway Safety Association website. Here are the top ten tips from the Governors Highway Safety Association for "managing driver distractions:"
  1. Turn it off. Turn your phone off or switch to silent mode before you get in the car.
  2. Spread the word. Set up a special message to tell callers that you are driving and you’ll get back to them as soon as possible, or sign up for a service that offers this.
  3. Pull over. If you need to make a call, pull over to a safe area first.
  4. Use your passengers. Ask a passenger to make the call for you.
  5. X the Text. Don’t ever text and drive, surf the web or read your email while driving. It is dangerous and against the law in most states.
  6. Know the law. Familiarize yourself with state and local laws before you get in the car. Some states and localities prohibit the use of hand held cell phones. GHSA offers a handy chart of state laws on its website.
  7. Prepare. Review maps and directions before you start to drive. If you need help when you are on the road, ask a passenger to help or pull over to a safe location to review the map/directions again.
  8. Secure your pets. Pets can be a big distraction in the car. Always secure your pets properly before you start to drive.
  9. Keep the kids safe. Pull over to a safe location to address situations with your children in the car.
  10. Focus on the task at hand. Refrain from smoking, eating, drinking, reading and any other activity that takes your mind and eyes off the road.