Lt. Colonel Jim Champagne, chair of the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA), responded on Tuesday to a new report from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) regarding drivers and cell phone usage.
“Today, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) released new research concluding that drivers using mobile phones are four times more likely to get into crashes serious enough to injure themselves. IIHS also indicated that hands-free equipment did not reduce chances of injury to drivers. This research, along with other recent studies from the University of Utah and Virginia Tech University, all have similar findings which should impact our public policy discussion about ‘dialing and driving.’ The message is clear: Drivers should not use ANY type of cell phone behind the wheel.
“Policy makers continue to struggle with the best solution to the distracted driving problem. From GHSA’s perspective, educating drivers about how to manage all distractions, including cell phone use, continues to be the most prudent course of action at this time. Drivers need to be reminded that driving is a very complex task requiring full attention. GHSA urges state legislatures to refrain from enacting hand-held cell phone bans because such bans send an incorrect message to drivers that as long as they are hands-free, they are safe.
“To better understand the extent of the problem, GHSA recommends states include an element for driver distraction on motor vehicle crash report forms. Currently, 19 states and the District of Columbia include driver distractions on their crash forms, which are completed by a police officer at a crash scene. The cumulative data from police crash forms are used to help develop policy and traffic safety countermeasures. GHSA and the U.S. Department of Transportation have developed model elements, which include driver distraction guidelines. States are encouraged to consider implementing driver distraction data elements as crash forms are updated. The guidelines, known as the Model Minimum Uniform Crash Criteria, are available at http://www.mmucc.us.”
The IIHS report is available online at http://www.iihs.org. State laws and restrictions on driving while using a cell phone are posted online at http://www.ghsa.org.
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