WASHINGTON DC –- Calling distracted driving an epidemic in the United States that must to be eliminated, federal transportation officials announced today it plans to launch a $2.4 million pilot project this fall — in the Sacramento Valley and Delaware — aimed at educating and changing behaviors of drivers nationwide.
Indeed, distracted driving has a negative effect on our society with 3,092 killed in 2010 nationwide, but most people surveyed this year by telephone said they are mostly likely going to answer calls while behind the wheel.
“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 in a press release issued today by his department. “Personal responsibility for putting down that cell phone is a good first step, but we need everyone to do their part.”
The fall pilot program is part of the Transportation Department’s ongoing “Blueprint for Ending Distracted Driving” strategy this year.
According to the LaHood, the blueprint plan will encourage the remaining 11 states to pass strong laws on hand-held devices and enforce distracted driving. Nationwide, some 39 states, the District of Columbia, the Virgin Islands and Guam, ban texting behind the wheel, according to the press release. Ten states, the District of Columbia, the Virgin Islands and Guam prohibit all hand-held cell phone use while driving, the release said.
“One in every ten fatalities on the nation’s roadways can be blamed on distracted driving, but it hasn’t stopped drivers from answering cell phones behind the wheel,” said Attorney West Seegmiller, founder of the Seegmiller Law Firm in Irvine, California.
Also, the program’s priority is to improve driver education for the nation’s youngest and most vulnerable drivers, LaHood said. The strategy includes a plan to motivate the automotive industry to invent new technology that will reduce the potential for distraction by various handheld devices typically used in vehicles.
The pilot program in California and Delaware will further expand the Transportation Department’s current campaign, “Phone in One Hand, Ticket in the Other” aimed at reducing distracted driving.
Beginning in the fall, the federal funds will provide these two targeted areas with increased police enforcement as well as paid media and news media coverage. The Sacramento Valley region, which comprises eight counties and 3.8 million residents, as well as the state of Delaware, will provide the department will necessary feedback on how well the program works.
A similar, smaller-scale project that took place in Hartford, CT in 2011, found there were dramatic declines in distracted driving — texting dropped 72 percent in Hartford and 32 percent in Syracuse, according to the press release.