The Department of Justice reports that pilot programs held in New York and Connecticut have resulted in a significant decrease in distracted driving accidents, with U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood calling the results “dramatic.”
Pilot Programs in Syracuse and Hartford Fight Against Texting and Cell Phone Use While Driving
Two cities were chosen as the locations where the government would experiment with increased law enforcement targeting texting and cell phone use by drivers along with a big public education media campaign to educate the two communities on the dangers of texting or talking on the phone while driving a car, truck, SUV, minivan, etc.
“These findings show that strong laws, combined with highly-visible police enforcement, can significantly reduce dangerous texting and cell phone use behind the wheel,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. “Based on these results, it is crystal clear that those who try to minimize this dangerous behavior are making a serious error in judgment, especially when half a million people are injured and thousands more are killed in distracted driving accidents.”
Federal Government and State Governments Shared Costs of the Pilot Programs
For each of the test runs, in New York and Connecticut, the Department of Justice put in $200,000 in federal funds with the state adding another $100,000 to cover the costs of increased police efforts as well as media costs (ads in the local newspapers, on the local television stations, etc.) They didn’t start from square one, however: costs were cut by mimicking the “Click It of Ticket” campaign as these two cities held their “Phone in One Hand, Ticket in the Other” distracted driving campaign.
National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) Studies Success of the “Phone in One Hand, Ticket in the Other” Pilots
The NHTSA surveyed public awareness at the Syracuse and Hartford driver licensing offices and their findings include:
- In Syracuse, New York, because of high-visibility enforcement -– both handheld cell phone use and texting behind the wheel have declined by 33%.
- In Hartford, Connecticut, where researchers initially identified drivers talking on their cell phones at twice the frequency (which left more room for improvement), there was a 57 percent drop in handheld use and texting behind the wheel dropped by nearly three-quarters.
Based on these numbers, the NHTSA is already promoting the implementation of these campaigns across the country, pushing for “Phone in One Hand, Ticket in the Other” campaigns with state legislatures, law enforcement agencies, and consumer safety advocates as well as manning its own Distracted Driving website at www.distraction.gov.
Which means that if states are willing to spend the money, there will lots more police pulling people over for using their cellphone while driving to give them tickets that will vary in cost depending upon which authority is issuing the traffic violation. Be careful out there.