‘We wanted to find out why all efforts to date to tackle distracted driving have utterly failed’

April 5, 2017 — Associated Press: “[The] professor who introduced Americans to the concept of designated drivers to deter drunken driving is now taking on the deadly problem of motorists distracted by cellphones and other electronics. Jay Winsten is consulting with federal and Massachusetts officials to develop a new generation of public awareness messages. ‘We wanted to find out why all efforts to date to tackle distracted driving have utterly failed,’ Winsten said. Distracted driving killed 3,477 people in 2015, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. The Governors Highway Safety Association recently cited it as contributing to a surge in pedestrian fatalities last year…It’s not as if Americans aren’t aware of the risks, said Winsten, director of the Center for Health Communication at Harvard’s School of Public Health. It’s just that many drivers, surveys show, are mistakenly confident in their own ability to ‘multitask and handle the problem,’ he added. Paradoxically, those same drivers fear they’ll be victimized by others who text, email or check social media while driving. It’s bravado like that of tipsy drivers confident they can handle the road after a few drinks even if others cannot, he said…As with drunken driving, Winsten said, tough laws, new technology and education must all be brought to bear on distracted driving, which he considers a more persistent and complex behavior to change. Public safety advocates agree…Winsten is working with federal highway safety officials to design a campaign that will help shift casual attitudes toward distracted driving…The key, he said, is finding a way to convince motorists they have but one job: drive the car. Studies demonstrate the plummet in a driver’s ability, when absorbed by an electronic device, to anticipate potential risks and react in time. Winsten also hopes to empower passengers, including children, to speak up if a driver is distracted.”
Read the Associated Press article by Bob Salsberg