Joining Forces on Distracted Driving

The blog was co-authored by:

Bruce Landsberg, Vice-Chairman, National Transportation Safety Board

Lorraine Martin, President & CEO, National Safety Council

By now, we all should be aware of the deadly consequences of distracted driving. Yet, driving while distracted by cell phone use has become too common an occurrence on the nation’s roads. This must stop.

It has been nearly a decade since the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) called on the states and the District of Columbia to enact laws that prohibit the non-emergency use of cell phones by all drivers. It has been more than a decade since the National Safety Council (NSC) became the first nongovernment organization to call for a total cell phone use ban for all drivers. Yet, tragically, no state has implemented this life-saving measure. 

Between 2011 and 2018, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reported that 25,926 people were killed and an estimated 2.4 million more were injured in distraction-affected crashes. While these numbers are staggering, we know that they don’t accurately reflect how big a problem distracted driving is because distracted driving-related crashes are, in fact, greatly underreported.

“Eliminate Distractions” is on the NTSB’s 2019-2020 Most Wanted List of Transportation Safety Improvements. We are calling on states, operators and industry, vehicle manufacturers, and the driving public to take action.

Together, NTSB and NSC have joined forces to urge the following immediate actions:

States: Enact laws that prohibit all cell phone use while driving—yes, even hands free. Laws must send a clear message to drivers that there is no safe way to use a phone while driving.

Employers: Establish strong transportation and driving policies that prohibit cell phone use by employees – no calls, no social media, no texts, no email while driving. The most effective safe driving policies go beyond merely prohibiting all cell phone use to include activities such as using infotainment systems while driving. Policies should also prohibit employees from contacting other employees when you know they will be driving. (Employers don’t have to wait for a state law to tell you to do this; be a leader in safe practices.)

Drivers (you and me!): Use your phone’s “do not disturb” feature. Place your phone out of reach or simply turn your phone off until you reach your destination. No call, no text, no update is worth your life or the life of someone else.

Manufacturers of portable electronic devices: Develop a distracted driving lock-out mechanism or application for portable electronic devices that will automatically disable any driver-distracting functions when a vehicle is in motion, but allows the device to be used in an emergency.

The NTSB and NSC are committed to eliminating preventable crashes caused by cell phone use. The research is clear: we cannot safely multitask behind the wheel. So, when you choose to drive distracted, you don’t just pose a risk to yourself, you are a risk to the safety of the others you share the road with.

October was National Distracted Driving Awareness Month, but we need to focus on this issue all year. We will continue in our fight and efforts to end the preventable crashes, injuries and fatalities caused by distracted driving. Join us in this commitment by acting responsibly and making attentive, distraction-free driving your goal when behind the wheel. We are aware of the problem; now let’s take action to prevent any more needless tragedies.

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