Preventing distracted driving requires changes in driver behavior

Too often, people search for a quick, easy fix to problems that do not necessarily lend themselves to simple solutions. Such is the case with distracted driving. Although the practice of driving with a cell phone or other electronic device is currently one of the most pressing safety issues in the U.S., few seem ready to address the problem head-on. According to the Governors Highway Safety Association, rather than simple bans on cell phone use or novel technological fixes, the real way to prevent drivers from engaging in behaviors that take their attention from the road is to change driver behavior.

National Highway Traffic Safety Administration statistics indicate that thousands of people are injured or killed in accidents caused by distracted drivers each year. In many states, including Pennsylvania, lawmakers have enacted laws intended to prevent people from using their cell phones when behind the wheel. Indeed, in Pennsylvania, the law states that drivers are not allowed to use an Interactive Wireless Communication Device to send or receive texts, write emails or browse the Internet while behind the wheel. Although these bans send the right message, in practice, their efficacy is unclear, primarily because they carry little in the way of real consequences. A violation of Pennsylvania law, for example, brings with it only a $50 fine.

Of course, local bans on cell phone use and new technologies can play a role in preventing distracted driving accidents, but it is important that people do not think that these simple measures are enough. Indeed, educational efforts aimed at ensuring that all drivers know how dangerous distracted driving is should begin at a young age. It may not happen overnight, but soon these sorts of programs will lead to a larger change in perspective.

Some experts have compared efforts to prevent distracted driving to those developed years ago to encourage the use of seat belts. Even though laws were changed to drivers to use safety belts, it took several years and a multitude of educational programs before their use became second nature to drivers. Although police officers still catch some drivers without seat belts, the number of drivers who do not use them has dropped significantly.

Unfortunately, preventing behavior that presents a significant safety threat can take time. Until people accept that the use of cell phones and other electronics is not safe while driving, accidents will continue to occur. Those who have been injured in an accident caused by a distracted driver should consider calling an experienced personal injury attorney.