Despite more regulations, texting while driving remains growing safety concern

While 46 states ban texting when driving and police are getting more clever in ways to try to stop drivers from using the internet when behind the wheel, safety experts agree that this form of distracted driving is worsening, according to a September 2, 2016 Associated Press (AP) story.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reported distracted driving killed about 3,500 people in the U.S. last year, up from nearly 3,200 in 2014, the article said. Fatalities related to cellphones increased from 406 in 2014 to 476 in 2015. The issue has continued despite police using tactics like bicycles to hand out tickets to texting drivers at stop lights or sitting high up in tractor trailer cabs to more easily spot drivers on their phones.

The article quoted Jay Winsten, associate dean and the Frank Stanton Director of the Center for Health Communication at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, who is developing a public awareness campaign against distracted driving. The Center launched the successful Designated Driver campaign in the U.S. in the late 1980s.

One issue is a lack of consistency in the regulations and penalties, Winsten said. Some states have heavier fines and consequences, while in others, it’s like getting a parking ticket. “The general public and members of the legislatures in all the states do not yet take distracted driving seriously enough,” he said. In addition to warning drivers to stay off their phones, the Harvard Chan School campaign will urge motorists to drive defensively and watch for distracted drivers. “We’re trying to get the attention of people by not talking to them as the villain, but rather as the other guy.”

See the September 2, 2016 AP story and video on Police losing battle to get drivers to put down their phones

Read a related September 2, 2016 AP story: Texting and driving: How laws are enforced in 5 states

Learn more:

Social media campaign could help stop teen drivers from texting (Harvard Chan News)

The Textalyzer? New efforts aim to curb texting by drivers (Harvard Chan News)

Keep your hands on the wheel, not a device (Center for Health Communication News)

Ramping up efforts against deadly distracted driving (Center for Health Communication News)