As you know, we at DOT have a strong commitment to end distracted driving. And yesterday, in Syracuse, NY, I was able to share the highly-anticipated results of our study showing that high visibility enforcement coupled with public education campaigns reduces cell phone related distracted driving.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) launched two distracted driving enforcement programs in the communities of Harford, Connecticut, and Syracuse, New York--two states with laws against texting and handheld cell phone use while driving--to see if stepped-up enforcement would be effective in stopping this dangerous behavior behind the wheel.
Over the course of the year, the two communities supported the enforcement effort with public service announcements using NHTSA's safety message Phone in One Hand, Ticket in the Other. This program followed the effective style of two other successful education campaigns, Click it or Ticket and Over the Influence, Under Arrest.
The one-year study showed the rate of electronic device use while driving dropped significantly in both pilot programs. Syracuse showed an overall decrease of 32 percent in both handheld phone use and texting. Hartford showed an even more impressive 57 percent drop in handheld phone use and a stunning 72 percent drop in texting behind the wheel.
But the folks who really appreciated the positive news were the men and women of the Syracuse and Hartford police departments, whose hard work and faithful service made the real difference this year.
The pilot programs show that our safety recipe works. Strong laws, strong enforcement, and ongoing public awareness made a noticeable difference in these communities. These successful programs have laid the foundation for continued enforcement of these laws in Syracuse and Hartford. Combined with increased public support and awareness, it's our hope that these pilot programs will have a lasting impact.
Now we'll take this program to the statewide level to test its effectiveness as a possible blueprint for safety across the country.
I cannot possibly express the depth of my gratitude to the cities of Syracuse and Hartford and their terrific police departments for their support during these programs. In particular, I want to thank Syracuse Police Captain Shannon Trice for his continued commitment to the fight against distracted driving. He has truly gone beyond the call of duty not only by leading Syracuse's efforts, but by becoming an outspoken advocate for strong enforcement of distracted driving laws.
We have learned that in states with laws to help prevent distracted driving, high-visibility enforcement can make a big difference. But, regardless of what laws are in place, when we get behind the wheel, we all have a personal responsibility to turn our cell phones off before we turn our vehicles on. Exercising that responsibility will make the biggest difference of all.