Addressing Distracted Driving Will Require Addressing All Forms of Distraction

Posted on April 20, 2012 at 8:55am by

On Wednesday, we discussed one of the speakers in the first of four panels as part of a daylong distracted driving forum held by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) in Washington, D.C. on March 27, 2012. The video above is the final panel from that one-day event, and we wanted to focus on something said by James Sayer, a professor at the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute (UMTRI).

“I think it’s really critical that we understand what is the nature of the distraction,” Sayer said, pointing out that “a whopping percentage of crashes” are not due to cell phones. Sayer went on to say that it is important not to lose sight of the fact that there are all these other distractions and he believes that the other distractions are part of the problem. “If we focus too much on cell phones, are we sending the message that some forms of distraction are OK, but others are not?” Sayer said.

This point was key to Sayer’s presentation, as he noted how 2008 General Estimates System (GES) data suggests that 21.7 percent of all crashes involve distraction, but cell phones are only cited in 1 percent of the crashes. His presentation noted that UMTRI analyses suggested it is probably closer to 3.5 percent of crashes are due to cell phones, but regardless, the majority of distracted driving crashes are not due to cell phones.

“Distraction is not new,” Sayer said, adding that it is not just associated with new technology. “It’s not something that is just going to go away overnight, and I don’t think that we should just simply accept the fact that there are all these other distracting behaviors that we seem to have for decades looked the other way and assumed we’re OK—the eating, the drinking, the reading a map, the reading a newspaper. I think these need to be tackled as well.”

Sayer went on to say in-vehicle safety systems need to be designed to assist in all forms of distraction, and only addressing the “new” forms of distraction will have limited impact in terms of total lives saved.

These are all valid points that Sayer brought up, and indeed all of us need to make an effort to eliminate all of the behaviors he mentioned as well as any other that takes our eyes off of the road. You can view the videos of the other panels that were a part of the NTSB distracted driving forum in the C-SPAN video library.

Doehrman Chamberlain – Indianapolis accident attorneys

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