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Distracted Driving Accidents and Cultural Change

Among the ten items listed on the National Transportation Safety Board's Most Wanted List for 2016 is a call to disconnect from deadly distractions. Distracted driving has been identified as a large and growing problem among highway safety experts. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that 3,179 died in fatal accidents in 2014 due to distracted drivers. State Farm reports that nearly 30 percent of survey respondents acknowledged using the Internet while driving in 2015. That figure is up from 13 percent in 2009.

The NTSB recommendations state that, "It will take a cultural change for drivers to understand that their safety depends on disconnecting from deadly distractions." Surveys conducted by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety demonstrate the problem. According to the AAA, more than two-thirds of drivers have talked on a cell phone while driving in the past month. In another survey by the organization, 85 percent of respondents claimed other drivers talking on cell phones are a threat to safety. Most people engage in distracted driving, while simultaneously considering other distracted drivers to be a danger. 

Text messaging is the distraction that has drawn the strongest legislative response. All but six states ban texting while driving. The majority of states have cell phone restrictions for novice drivers. Only 14 states have a ban on hand-held cell phones for experienced drivers. No state has gone as far as to ban the use of hands-free devices for drivers.

The NTSB used the notion of a sterile cockpit in the aviation as a template for eliminating distractions. To that end, the NTSB reiterated it call for a total ban on the use of personal electronic devices by drivers. Eliminating PEDs is an important step in helping drivers avoid deadly distractions.

Sources: National Transportation Safety Board, "Disconnect from Deadly Distractions," January 2016 

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