Federal Officials Release ‘Blueprint’ to Battle Distracted Driving

Sounding the alarm on what he called a national “epidemic,” Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood announced the release of a “Blueprint for Ending Distracted Driving” Thursday that outlines strategies to combat distractions behind the wheel.

In the blueprint, federal officials push several entities across the nation to take action on different levels. States should take legislative action, the auto industry should adopt guidelines on developing distraction-reducing technology, and educators should inform new drivers about the often-deadly consequences of distractions behind the wheel, according to the blueprint.

“While we’ve made progress in the past three years by raising awareness about this risky behavior, the simple fact is people are continuing to be killed and injured—and we can put an end to it,” LaHood said in a statement. “Personal responsibility for putting down that cell phone is a good first step—but we need everyone to do their part.”

About 1 in every 10 deaths on the road in 2010 was related to distraction, according to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA).

LaHood said one primary goal of the blueprint was to educate “our youngest and most vulnerable drivers,” referring to federal statistics on young drivers and distracted driving.

NHTSA data shows that drivers under 25 years old are two to three times more likely than older age groups to send texts or e-mails behind the wheel. Other NHTSA research shows that motorists under 20 years old are the age group most involved in distraction-related fatalities on the road.

Such research gives insurance companies many reasons to charge young motorists higher insurance premiums. Even at cheap insurance companies, insurance policies for younger drivers are higher than average because of research-backed findings showing their tendency towards riskier habits on the road and higher crash rates.

Court Sentences Teen to Prison for Distracted Driving Fatality

The blueprint was released the same week a Massachusetts teen got a two-year prison sentence for causing a fatal collision while texting behind the wheel in February 2011.

The 18-year-old, who was 17 years old at the time of the crash, was the first motorist in the state to face charges for motor vehicle homicide by texting, according to media reports.

Massachusetts is one of 39 states in the U.S. that already prohibit all motorists from texting while driving.

The newly released federal blueprint pushes the last 11 states to implement texting restrictions with what it calls “critical legislation.”

Ninety percent of drivers support laws banning texting behind the wheel, according to a 2011 federal survey cited in the blueprint.

About John Pirro
John Pirro is a licensed fire and casualty insurance agent specializing in various aspects of the auto insurance industry. He worked in the auto body repair industry before taking a reporting position at Online Auto Insurance News.

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