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Directions in Highway Safety, Summer 2008 Cover Page Download Newsletter pdf
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Summer 2008 | Vol. 10 | No. 4

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NHTSA Report Examines Driver Distraction Research


A new NHTSA report consolidates current knowledge on driver distraction to help state and local governments develop the most effective policies and regulations. The document, Driver Distraction: A Review of the Current State-of- Knowledge, seeks to define driver distraction and summarizes different types of distraction and the current knowledge of their influence on vehicle crashes. It covers both cell phones and in-vehicle technologies, such as navigational systems.

The report also discusses the effectiveness of existing countermeasures. Standard behavioral countermeasures, including laws, enforcement and sanctions are considered unlikely to be effective because distraction is a broad societal problem associated with lifestyle patterns and choices. For example, a study of the effectiveness of New York State's cell phone law saw initial compliance followed by a phone use similar to what was observed before the law took effect.

The paper suggests future research is needed to better understand and address the problem. Specific recommendations include: larger, more representative naturalistic studies; a defined taxonomy of driver distractions and their sources; objective, standardized measures of distraction; and further evaluation of the effectiveness of State distraction-related laws.

The report is available online at: