Using shame to combat distracted driving

The key to convincing people to stop using their smartphones while driving is to make the practice socially unacceptable, according to Jay Winsten of Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

Winsten, Frank Stanton Director of the School’s Center for Health Communication and associate dean for health communication, is working on a campaign to prevent injuries and fatalities caused by “distracted driving,” which often involves the use of smartphones and other digital devices.

Winsten helped popularize the concept of the designated driver in the U.S. three decades ago by promoting it through TV shows and pop culture. He hopes to fight distracted driving in much the same way.

“There’s absolutely no social stigma connected with distracted driving today,” Winsten said in a wide-ranging Q&A in the April 26, 2017 Washington Post. “We need to create that stigma. We need to create a sense of shame connected with the behavior of driving distracted, which doesn’t exist today.”

Read the Washington Post Q&A: This Harvard professor used TV sitcoms to fight drunk driving. Can he do the same for distracted driving?

Learn more

Curbing distracted driving with “situational awareness” (Harvard Chan School news)

Despite more regulations, texting while driving remains growing safety concern (Harvard Chan School news)