Thinking Globally, Acting Locally

By Debbie Hersman

As Chairman of the NTSB, I have the privilege of meeting community and industry leaders from across the country. 

This morning, I had the pleasure of meeting two safety champions — Aldermen Jane Grover and Melissa Wynne from the city of Evanston, Illinois to discuss banning cell phone use by drivers.

In March 2010, the city council banned the use of handheld cell phones for all drivers.  In the past two years the city has issued about 3,000 tickets for hand-held violations, and 85 percent of those have been paid. That’s a higher rate than for other traffic violations.  More importantly, Evanston has seen a dramatic decrease in accidents — vehicle/pedestrian as well as vehicle/vehicle accidents. 

In the coming weeks, the city council will consider a full ban on the use of all portable and on-board communications devices while driving, because they recognize that even with a hands-free device, there is still a cognitive distraction.   

These local initiatives may have the greatest impact on safety in a given community. Improvements to safety can trickle down from the Federal to local level – or it can build up from the local level. Evanston’s data demonstrates that they can better protect everyone on the road if drivers are attentive. I applaud Evanston for taking this step forward for safety. Change is not easy, but as the saying goes, there can be change without progress but no progress without change.

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