Originally posted on LinkedIn
“Textalyzer” became a buzzword this spring when lawmakers began advocating for use of the tool in states like New York and New Jersey. The device, which pulls data from motorists’ cell phones, would allow police to instantly determine if a text message had been sent in the seconds before a crash. It’s no doubt an effective way to catch distracted drivers red-handed.
However, this reactive approach is not enough to stop the current distracted driving epidemic in our country. Sure, there is merit to using the textalyzer to hold drivers accountable for already having made the mistake of driving distracted. But the incorporation of educational programs as a proactive effort is absolutely necessary to break distracted driving habits before they have consequences.
As an active member of a nationwide organization that aims to reduce distracted driving, I have seen firsthand the positive effects of educational programs that promote safety and aim to reduce the number of distracted drivers on the roads. Our efforts have made it clear that any legislation related to distracted driving should include an education provision to teach drivers to make better decisions right now.
Mandated education programs, in addition to promoting law enforcement crackdowns, protect citizens in a more dynamic way. All drivers must start taking responsibility on an individual level, and that starts with laws that require every driver to complete of a distracted driving awareness program. These proactive and reactive approaches will work in tandem to change driving culture on a large scale.
There is more value in emboldening people to think about their actions and reconfigure bad habits before they have devastating consequences. After seeing one of our distracted driving awareness presentations, a student said:
“When you are driving distracted you not only put your life at risk, but everyone around you. I want to do something to stop these deaths, and it has to start with myself. I’m going to make an effort to not let myself be distracted and to let others know, too.”
Our speakers hear this type of feedback after every presentation. They have imagined scenarios in which their poor choices behind the wheel could hurt them, their passengers, or someone else. Safety suddenly becomes personal, and that is where success truly lies as we combat the staggering number of deaths and injuries caused by distracted driving each year.
Some states see the benefit of distracted driving education programs and have created legislation that includes them. In Massachusetts, Bill SD. 1545 would require the development and implementation of a public awareness campaign for junior and adult drivers. The program would include information such as the consequences of distracted driving as well as state restrictions, punishments and fines regarding the use of mobile devices while driving. Each new publication of the driver’s manual would also be required to include information on the dangers of distracted driving.
Every state in the U.S. would benefit from enacting similar legislation. I implore lawmakers, parents, and drivers of all ages to promote distracted driving education in order to truly stop this nationwide epidemic.
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).