The movement to end distracted driving has been gaining steam lately. Statewide trial lawyer associations in Massachusetts , Rhode Island, and New York have pushed for statewide efforts to combat distracted driving. Most recently, the Pennsylvania Association for Justice, led by President Scott Cooper, kicked off their EndDD campaign . I was honored to give the EndDD presentation at my daughter’s school last week and have received excellent feedback from faculty, students (and even my daughter). The efforts of these organizations and of individuals who present on the topic, argue for legislation, and write articles and blog posts on the dangers of distracted driving have brought the issue into the forefront of our minds, but are they enough to end the epidemic?
Two researchers from West Virginia University, Dr. Jeffrey Coben and Dr. Motao Zhu, don’t think so. Last week, Coben and Motao published an essay in the Journal of the American Medical Association in which they cite a 22% increase in distracted driving-related fatalities between 2005 and 2009. The authors suggest that while passing legislation to ban distracted driving is important, it is not enough to force drivers to leave their phones alone. Instead, Coben and Zhu suggest that the focus needs to be on new technologies that automatically disable phones when driving.
Although it sounds like a drastic measure, I’m inclined to agree. New York’s “hands-free” law for cell phones may have had some effect, but I know that I’m still guilty of picking up the phone on occasion, and I can’t count the number of times I’ve seen other drivers doing the same. Even laws like New York’s proposed total ban on cell phone use (even hands-free) are unlikely to completely prevent cell phone usage in vehicles. Perhaps we need the technology to make the decision for us.
I’m interested to know what others think—should cell phones be automatically disabled in cars? Is that the ultimate answer to ending distracted driving?
A West Point graduate where he served as captain and military aviator, John Bair continues his commitment to our country through his efforts within the settlement planning industry. He has represented families of victims lost in the Flight 3407 crash, offered pro bono services to the families of 9/11 victims and drafted the first consumer protection bill for plaintiffs (H.R. 3699).