Proposal 1: Distracted Driving-An Epidemic

For my white paper I am looking into the issue of distracted driving, especially texting and driving. Distracted driving has become a large issue across the country. In 2010 3,092 people were killed in crashes involving a distracted driver and an estimated additional 416,000 were injured in motor vehicle crashes involving a distracted driver. I plan to look more into policies that have been put in place, especially among states and in the workplace.

Currently, the power to enforce laws against distracted driving lies with the states. However, only 39 states have laws against texting and driving and each state’s law varies on severity. 10 of these states imposed laws in 2010. There has been a lot of discussion about the best way to address the issue and who should be responsible. Some groups believe the key to solving the issue is awareness, others believe it should be a federal law, and still other groups believe it should be left to the states.  Finally, recent discussions have also focused on a push to encourage companies to enforce policies against texting while driving. In 2009, President Obama enforced an Executive Order directing Federal Employees not to engage in text messaging while driving government owned vehicles, using electronic equipment supplied by the government, or driving privately owned vehicles while on official government business. This was just one step in trying to address the issue of texting while driving.

Today there are many campaigns against distracted driving, especially among government led organizations. I focused my search on government policies and campaigns that are currently in place. Using the Department of Transportation (DOT) website I was able to learn more about the current policies in place and the Department’s current campaign and blueprint for ending distracted driving. The current blueprint includes several sections:

Raising Public Awareness

• In 2009 DOT launched—which was the first ever Federal Web site dedicated to raising awareness and supporting advocacy on the issue.

• Secretary LaHood has hosted  Distracted Driving Summits and engaged in public activities to bring awareness and identify strategies to combat the problem.

Leading by Example: Public Policies on Distraction
• President Obama issued an Executive Order in October 2009 prohibiting Federal employees from texting while driving government vehicles or while using government-supplied cell phones while driving any vehicles.
• The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) developed a sample law to prohibit texting while driving. The organization hopes that the sample law will help states enact effective and uniform distracted driving.
• DOT and NHTSA are working with employers to put an end to driving distraction. They have identified more than 550 U.S. companies that committed to enacting anti-distracted-driving employee policies.

Enact and Enforce Tough State Laws
• As of June 2012, 39 States have enacted anti-texting laws, and 10 States have passed laws banning all hand-held phone use by drivers. DOT is now encouraging the remaining 11 States to pass anti-texting laws.
• NHTSA’s high-visibility enforcement pilot programs showed that drivers do change their cell phone use when faced with good laws, tough enforcement, and public education campaigns.
• The Motor Vehicle and Highway Safety Act of 2012, provides $39 million for grants to States that enact laws prohibiting texting while driving.

Address Technology
• The DOT and NHTSA have proposed guidelines for vehicle manufacturers to discourage introducing distracting devices into vehicles.
Better Educate Young Drivers
• NHTSA is working with the American Driver and Traffic Safety Education Association to update its driver education model curriculum to include the latest information on driver distraction.
• In April 2012, DOT announced the Distracted Driving Design Challenge to encourage high school students to spread the word about distracted driving by designing a creative icon for social media networks.
The department and campaign recognize that policies are effective at guiding behavior, but they can’t happen without advocacy. State laws, local ordinances, workplace policies, and organizational resolutions need to address the dangers of distracted driving. This government website proved to be very helpful in understanding the issue and the movements that are currently being pursued by the Department of Transportation and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Additionally, I liked the websites’ recognition of the need for multiple groups to be involved to fix the issue. However, as this was a government site, I was hesitant to fully join the praise of how much the departments and organizations has done. Additionally,  I noted the minimal conversation about imposing a federal law that would hold the national government solely responsible for prohibiting texting and driving.


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