Today we're launching pilot programs in Hartford and Syracuse to encourage people to keep their hands on the wheel and off the phone. As the Wall Street Journal reports, "The goal is to test the effectiveness of tactics that could be used in broader efforts."
By now readers know that I am on a rampage to curb distracted driving. The reason for that is obvious: talking, texting, and other distractions behind the wheel are killing people--6,000 every year, with more than 500,000 injured. 6,000 people--all of them sons or daughters, fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters, spouses, friends.
Last month, 14-month-old Grayson Paul Earl Jett was killed in Minnesota by a driver reaching to pick up a dropped cell phone. As Jon Cummings of Minnesotans for Safe Driving said, "The sad thing is that this 14-month-old pays with his life for just pretty much a mindless thing you've done a thousand times."
Here's how it was reported on KSTP-TV: "Police say a crash that killed a baby boy in Columbia Heights was completely preventable. All the driver had to do was keep her eyes on the road."
It's clear we need focused driving, and we've made great progress in our campaign. Many states have banned texting while driving--21 of them so far. Some--including Connecticut and New York--have banned hand-held cell phone use.
Learn more about the dangers of distracted driving at D!straction.gov
But, through all of my work to reduce this deadly epidemic, I have noticed one constant point of resistance: people asking, "What's the point of these laws? It's not like we can enforce them."
Today, in Hartford and Syracuse we begin testing the idea that enforcement can change behavior by applying the lessons we learned when people raised the same criticism of seat belt laws or drunk driving laws.
We know that drivers can change their behavior. The number of drunk drivers on the road is at its lowest recorded rate. And seat belt use is at its highest.
Legislation, enforcement, public outreach, and the support of industry and advocacy groups--these keys to the success of seat belt and drunk driving campaigns are also the keys for making distracted driving a thing of the past.
So we're partnering with law enforcement officers in Hartford and Syracuse to support highly visible enforcement of state distracted driving laws.
And we'll supplement that with an ad campaign that says if you have a cell-phone in one hand while driving, law enforcement officers will make sure you're going to have a ticket in the other hand.
I look forward to being able to return to this blog with good news from these new pilot programs.
Look, distracted driving is not just a technology problem; it's a human problem. And only by changing human behavior can we make our roads safer from this threat.
Together, I know we can do that.