FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
September 20, 2010
Contact: Kara Macek, 202-789-0942, ext. 14
After Hours: Jonathan Adkins, 202-669-9746
States Taking Action on Distracted Driving as Second Summit Convenes
12 New Texting Bans Since 2009 Summit Highlight State Activities
WASHINGTON, D.C.—The Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA) will be among the many organizations represented at the 2010 Distracted Driving Summit being held September 21 in Washington. GHSA Executive Director Barbara Harsha will speak on a panel at 2:40 p.m. ET. She will outline the steps states have taken since the initial Summit last year. In addition to Ms. Harsha, GHSA is being represented by Chairman Vernon F. Betkey, Jr. as well as Governor’s Highway Safety Representatives from Alaska, Georgia, Illinois, Maine, Michigan, New Jersey, New York and Virginia.
According to GHSA Executive Director Barbara Harsha, “States are addressing the distracted driving problem comprehensively. Clearly the highlight is that 12 states have passed texting bans since 2009’s Distracted Driving Summit1. Harsha notes, however, “These laws by themselves are not magic bullets. Enforcement paired with public education about the enforcement are just as enforcement. As enforcement techniques continue to improve and best practices are shared, we expect states to increase their enforcement activity. The public is going to get the message that distracted driving is dangerous and may cost you a ticket, or worse, your life.”
Harsha adds that in addition to stronger laws, states are aggressively pursuing solutions to distracted driving including: increased data collection, new education programs, public/private partnerships and a growing reliance on new media to spread the message. This summer, GHSA published a detailed report summarizing state activity. The report, Curbing Distracted Driving: 2010 Survey of State Safety Programs, details a host of approaches states are implementing. Every state is addressing the issue in some form, and additional activities are expected as more research becomes available and if funding is provided.
Since the report’s publication, states continue to expand their distracted driving activities. Among the recent developments:
- California has announced that during the upcoming fiscal year it will spend at least 2.7 million in federal highway safety grant money toward distracted driving. In addition to enforcement activity, the state is developing and implementing a statewide campaign to change social norms on this issue. Additionally, efforts are underway to adapt methodologies for collecting data on the role of cell phone use in crashes. Lack of cogent, usable data has long been a roadblock in planning effective distracted driving countermeasures nationally.
- Delaware passed bans on both texting and the use of hand held cell phones while driving at the end of its legislative session in June. In preparation for the law’s implantation date of January 2, 2011, the state is developing a public awareness campaign to begin in October. Media and public awareness materials about the new law will be placed statewide. Additionally, one of the state’s partners, Bayhealth, which has two hospitals in the state, launched an awareness campaign featuring their trauma doctors and nurses using the catch phrase “Texting while driving? We’ll CU in the ER.” They have developed posters, radio ads, and billboards, and conducted “no texting while driving” pledge drives at local high schools.
- Minnesota held a “Distracted Driving Outreach and Enforcement Week” in August, including a statewide “Distraction Free Driving Day” endorsed by Governor Pawlenty. The effort centered on increased enforcement of the state’s ban on texting and other electronic communication and included more than 80 law enforcement agencies who received overtime pay to conduct the blitz. This was complemented by advertising in the state’s major media markets warning drivers of the texting/electronic communication ban.
- New Jersey continues its focus on increasing enforcement of its handheld and texting bans, issuing approximately 10,000 tickets each month to violators. Under a state-developed initiative, police officers are positioned both on the street and in police vehicles at various intersections where they can observe drivers who may be breaking the law.
- Michigan kicked off its new texting ban by launching a statewide "Thumbs on the Wheel" campaign that featured a TV public service announcement with talking thumbs, billboards with a "txt back l8r" message, and posters. In addition, a special website allows people to download a "Thumbs on the Wheel" ringtone to remind them to ignore text messages when driving. Extensive earned media supported awareness activities.
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The Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA)® is a nonprofit association representing the highway safety offices of states, territories, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. GHSA provides leadership and representation for the states and territories to improve traffic safety, influence national policy and enhance program management. Its members are appointed by their Governors to administer federal and state highway safety funds and implement state highway safety plans. Contact GHSA at 202-789-0942 or visit www.ghsa.org.