Ready mixed producers attempting to ban or limit drivers’ use of cell phones while operating trucks or other company vehicles are seeing their safety concerns reinforced by federal government initiatives addressing distracted-driving hazards
Source: U.S. Department of Transportation; AAA Foundation, Washington, D.C.; CP staff
Ready mixed producers attempting to ban or limit driversÌ use of cell phones while operating trucks or other company vehicles are seeing their safety concerns reinforced by federal government initiatives addressing distracted-driving hazards.
U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood will convene a late-September summit where senior department officials, legislators, safety advocates, law enforcement representatives, and academics will assess the dangers of text-messaging and other distractions behind the wheel. Noting that the summit will lead to a DOT action plan on distracted-driving hazards, Sec. LaHood emphasized, Laws arenÌt always enough. WeÌve learned from past safety-awareness campaigns that it takes a coordinated strategy combining education and enforcement to get results.
The summit announcement followed the late-July release of results from an AAA survey indicating that 87 percent of motorists view text messaging or e-mailing while driving a serious threat to road safety. [Drunk driving was likewise identified by 90 percent.] Moreover, even among the 80 percent of survey respondents who rated distracted driving–due to talking on a cell phone, texting, or e-mailing–a very serious safety hazard, over two-thirds admitted to driving while talking on a cell phone, and 21 percent reported reading or sending a text message or e-mail behind the wheel in the past month.
Many motorists who would never consider drinking and driving think somehow it’s okay to text or e-mail while driving, says AAA Foundation President and CEO Peter Kissinger. We need to stigmatize distracted driving to the same degree as drunk driving in our culture, because both behaviors are deadly.
The AAA and DOT announcements follow an early-2009 National Safety Council call for a ban on motoristsÌ use of hand-held and hands-free cell phones for voice or text messaging. NSC’s position was grounded primarily in crash and fatality statistics from a Harvard University School of Public Health/Center of Risk Analysis study estimating that cell phone use while driving contributes to 6 percent of vehicle accidents annually, i.e., 636,000 accidents, 342, 000 injuries, and 2,600 deaths per year, plus estimated damages of $43 billion. A subsequent National Transportation Safety Board hearing in March identified operator texting on a cell phone as a significant factor in the September 2008 commuter and freight train collision in California that claimed 25 lives and injured 135.