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NHTSA study releases study on distracted driving

According to a recent report by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, stepped-up enforcement of distracted driving laws and media campaigns urging drivers to put their handheld cells phones down while driving results in a significant reduction of distracted driving. Distracted driving is one of the leading causes of car accidents.

That conclusion was based on data taken over four separate periods in New York and Connecticut. The positive results of those campaigns are causing regulators to take notice and push for stricter enforcement of distracted driving laws.

The NHTSA said that there was a 72 decrease in texting while driving and a 57 percent decrease in handheld cell phone use in Hartford. In Syracuse, there was a 32 percent decrease in both texting while driving and handheld cell phone use.

The data from the report was based on observations from last April and July, and October, as well as March-April of 2011. Researchers observed driver cell phone use before and after each period of stepped-up enforcement, and took public surveys on distracted driving public awareness. The campaigns were modeled on the famous "Click It or Ticket" model, which have been largely successful in increasing seat-belt use nationwide.

Ray LaHood, secretary of the Department of Transportation, said the research showed that making roads safer will require stricter enforcement of distracted driving laws, rather than taking more lenient approach, as has been suggested by some recently.

The Governor's Highway Safety Association, prior to the NHTSA research was released, recently said that states that have not yet passed a ban on handheld cell phones while driving should refrain from doing so until research can confirm that approach is successful. The Governor's High Safety Association has apparently reacted positively to the NHTSA research.

Source: USA Today, "Distracted-driving programs show success," Larry Copeland, 12 July 2011.

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