The NHTSA’s “Blueprint for Ending Distracted Driving”

Earlier the week, we wrote about how evolving technology may lead to even more driver distraction. In this post, we take a more general look at the problem of distracted driving and the efforts to cut down on the number of distracted drivers on America’s roads. This is an issue of grave concern to our San Jose car accident attorney. As a California Office of Traffic Safety FAQ on the issue notes, “Driver distractions have joined alcohol and speeding as leading factors in fatal and serious injury crashes.”

The Distracted Driving Problem and Prevention Efforts from 2009 to 2012
In July 2012, the National Highway Traffic Safety Association (“NHTSA”) released a report entitled “Blueprint for Ending Distracted Driving” that sought to expand the national understanding of a safety threat first identified as an NHTSA focal area in 2009 by former Secretary Ray LaHood. According to NHTSA estimates, 3,000 people die each year as a result of distracted driving crashes, accidents involving a driver who loses focus on the task of driving as a result of a manual, visual, and/or cognitive distraction. Notably, texting involves all three forms of distraction. Observational surveys supplement general statistics, reporting that more than 100,000 drivers are texting and 600,000 are holding phones up to their ears at any given moment during daylight hours. Texting, a major form of driver distraction, is particularly widespread among younger drivers, who are also less likely to object if they are a passenger and a driver is texting. On average, a text takes the driver’s eyes off the road for 4.6 seconds, long enough to travel to span of a football field when travelling 55mph.

From LaHood’s initial identification of the problem until the release of the Blueprint, the NHTSA partnered with states to begin addressing the distracted driving threat, including the then-emerging problem of texting and driving. Strategies in this initial timeframe included: Raising awareness (including via Distraction.gov); Public policy and legislative measures (ex. texting bans at the state level, prohibiting federal employees from texting while operating a government vehicle, rules for pilots); and Research & development.

The NHTSA’s Plans Moving Forward
After looking at the work thus far, the Blueprint made recommendations for addressing the threat of distracted driving going forward. One focal area included in the report is enacting and enforcing tough state laws. When identifying this goal, the NHTSA noted that studies show that laws can lead to actual change in driver behavior when the laws are accompanied by education and enforcement efforts. Working with technology is also listed as a focal area, including advance crash warning systems and other devices that can minimize the impact of distraction and/or monitor driver behavior. This arm of the prevention efforts also includes developing science-backed studies that look at driver behavior and crash risk. Another NHTSA focal area for combating distracted driving going forward is educating young drivers. More generally, the Blueprint calls for community involvement and advocacy.

The Bottom Line: Responsibility
We support the NHTSA’s goal of preventing distracted driving. In particular, we support one of the final prongs of the NHTSA’s efforts: Responsibility. As the Blueprint notes, “the first line of defense against this risky behavior must be personal responsibility by all drivers.” Ultimately, it is up to each and every driver to choose to drive responsibly and focus on the road.

Responsibility also means being accountable for the results of one’s decisions. If someone else’s irresponsible behavior left you injured, we can help you recover the money you deserve. Call and arrange a meeting with our Northern California distracted driving injury lawyer to discuss your legal rights and the role injury lawsuits can play in combating distracted driving.

See Related Blog Posts:
New Technology May Lead to More Distracted Drivers

Distracted Driving, Old and New