More States Focus on Distracted Driving, Study Says

By Matt Schmitz  on July 18, 2013

If the first step in solving a problem is acknowledging there is one, the U.S. has made strides in addressing the deadly issue of distracted driving. According to a new report from the Governors Highway Safety Association, a nonprofit association representing U.S. highway-safety offices, states have made significant improvements in enacting and enforcing distracted-driving laws, collecting data and educating the public.

All 50 states and the District of Columbia participated in GHSA's "2013 Distracted Driving: Survey of the States" study and results show that since the previous study in 2010, the number of states identifying distracted driving as a priority issue increased by 28 to 39, a 43% spike. Jonathan Adkins, GHSA deputy executive director, indicated that while knowing may be half the battle, the second half might be an uphill one, as 50% of adults now own smartphones, according to GHSA. "States face major obstacles including a lack of funding for enforcement, media and education," he said in a statement. "That, coupled with the motoring public's unwillingness to put down their phones, despite disapproving of and recognizing the danger of this behavior, makes for a challenging landscape."

Other findings of the 2013 study are:

  • Forty-seven states and the District of Columbia now have laws prohibiting various forms of distracted driving, with 41 now banning texting compared with 28 three years earlier.
  • Police in nearly every state are actively enforcing distracted-driving laws through routine patrols and public-awareness efforts.
  • Statewide education efforts have increased by 26%, with the vast majority using social media; the use of channels such as Twitter, YouTube and Facebook has increased by 125%.
  • More states are targeting teens with educational materials, as they are both at greatest risk for crashes and the strongest adopters of new technology.
  • States are making more targeted outreach efforts, asking employers to educate their workforce.
  • Four more states now collect distracted-driving data via police crash reports than in 2010, with 47 states and the District of Columbia now doing so.
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News Editor Matt Schmitz is a veteran Chicago journalist indulging his curiosity for all things auto while helping to inform car shoppers.  Email Matt