According to figures recently released by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), 3,328 people were killed in 2012 as the result of distracted driving crashes. In the same time period, 421,000 people were injured as the result of distracted drivers. To combat the ever-increasing problem of cell phone use and texting and driving, U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx announced the start of National Distracted Driving Awareness Month in April 2014. The program will combine a nationwide advertisement campaign as well as a high-visibility law enforcement crackdown on distracted driving.
The $8.5 million advertising campaign will be on television, radio and the Internet and will be conducted in both English and Spanish. The ads will contain the catch phrase U Drive. U Text. U Pay. Discussing the new ads, Secretary Foxx remarked, “This campaign puts distracted driving on par with our efforts to fight drunk driving or to encourage seatbelt use. Across the country, we’re putting distracted drivers on notice: If you’re caught texting while driving, the message you receive won’t be from your cell phone, but from law enforcement–U Drive. U Text. U Pay.” The advertising campaign will also be combined with a nationwide, high-visibility law enforcement crackdown on texting and driving from April 10 to April 15, 2014. During this time, thousands of law enforcement personnel will use traditional and innovative techniques to catch distracted drivers. Currently, 43 states, D.C., Puerto Rico, Guam and the U.S. Virgin Islands have laws banning texting and driving for all ages; twelve states, D.C. Puerto Rico, Guam and the U.S. Virgin Islands ban cell phone use among drivers of all ages; thirty-seven states and D.C. prohibit cell phone use among new drivers.
Before launching the nationwide campaign, the federal government tested the program in California and Delaware. The program, which used the phrase Phone in One Hand. Ticket in the Other, proved to be effective. In California, police issued 10,700 tickets for distracted driving. In Delaware, police issued 6,200 tickets to drivers who were on the phone or texing. In addition, observed hand-held cell phone use dropped by 33 percent in each area. In California, such use dropped from 4.1 percent to 2.7 percent; in Delaware, observed cell phone use dropped from 4.5 percent to 3 percent.
NHTSA Acting Administrator David Friedman stated that the national program should be just as effective as the test campaigns in California and Delaware. He remarked, “National campaigns like Click It or Ticket and local efforts like Phone in One Hand. Ticket in the Other. show that combining good laws with effective enforcement and strong public education campaigns can–and do–change driving behaviors. We will continue to work with our federal, state, and local partners to urge drivers to put down electronic devices and focus on the task of driving.”
More about the campaign can be found here at the NHTSA website.