In October 2016 the Missouri Coalition for Roadway Safety published “Missouri’s Blueprint – A Partnership Toward Zero Deaths”. While this document addressed quite a few traffic safety priorities, a plan was developed for curbing distracted driving. The plan was well-received as many traffic safety experts believe that cell phone use behind the wheel is playing a big factor in the increase of roadway fatalities in Missouri.
Reducing the Number of Distracted Driving Is an Area of Emphasis
Distracted driving prevention efforts were addressed in Missouri’s Blueprint as part of the emphasis on reducing the number of high risk drivers in Missouri. Most certainly, you would have to say that distracted driving ranks among one of the most dangerous driving behaviors along with unrestrained driving, impaired driving, and driving aggressively.
After laying out the challenges associated with reducing distracted drivers, the Blueprint set forth 5 key areas to combat distracted driving, including 1) Education 2) Enforcement 3) Engineering 4) Technology and 5) Public Policy. Of these 5 areas, the quickest and most effective way to reduce distracted driving is through education.
Educating About the Dangers of Distracted Driving
As one of the strategies to reduce the number of drivers who are distracted behind the wheel, the Blueprint stated that public information campaigns be expanded to educate roadway users on the dangers of distracted driving. In this regard, we are recommending that Missouri seriously consider implementing the “Drive By Example” driving safety program. DBE is a comprehensive safety campaign that encourages all drivers to adopt the habits and behaviors that protect themselves, their passengers, and others on the roadway by driving alert, buckled, and cautious. The program is also accompanied by a campaign that associates distracted driving with drunk driving.
As the “Drive By Example” campaign generates momentum, we can accomplish two things to help reduce distracted driving. First, as distracted drivers are cast as outlaw drivers, distracted driving will be villainized. In turn, less drivers will be willing to use their phones while driving because the conduct will not be socially acceptable.
Second, as the threat of distracted driving continues to be emphasized, drivers, who hold their own self-preservation as the highest priority, will respond by protecting themselves from the threat at hand. The campaign gives them the formula for the best protection they can have against another driver
Unfortunately, because Missouri’s law only prohibits drivers 21 and younger from using a cell phone, there is not much law enforcement can do to prevent distracted driving. While there is some question as to what difference a law would make, Missouri lawmakers will have another opportunity in 2017 to pass a distracted driving law. However, at this time it does look like a law will pass when considering the current leadership in the Missouri House of Representatives and the Missouri Senate.
Technology and engineering may provide a solution down the road. That said, it is very difficult to take away technology once it is in the public domain.