Statewide Distracted Driving Programs Could Reduce Car Accidents in Asheville, Elsewhere in North Carolina

With millions of cell phone subscribers throughout the United States getting behind the wheel to drive each day, it is no doubt becoming a problem of epic proportions to contain the number of car accidents in North Carolina, South Carolina and throughout the country that are caused by distractions.

State lawmakers are placing a ban on texting in some states but many states still allow handheld or hands-free devices to be used while driving. Cognitive distractions, like texting or talking, can lead to dangerous situations for drivers, pedestrians, bicyclists and other motorists who are often severely injured or killed in distracted driving accidents.
The U.S. Department of Transportation has been experimenting with pilot projects in Syracuse, NY and Hartford, CT in an effort to curb texting while driving. The results have been positive but our Asheville car accident attorneys are wondering whether it’s the enforcement of laws or the public awareness that is doing the trick.

According to Your News Now, there are three key ingredients that have led to the success of the Phone in One Hand, Ticket in the Other Campaign in Syracuse and Hartford. Tougher laws, stricter enforcement and city-wide public awareness have made the distracted driving program successful, similar to how drunk driving and seat belt campaigns have shown success in the past.

Each city received $200,000 in federal funds and an additional $100,000 from the state to put into increased police enforcement, press releases to engage the news media and paid advertising. Over the past year, police enforcement was enhanced over four periods which led to over 9,500 citations for drivers using a cell phone in Syracuse and 9,658 tickets issued to Hartford distracted drivers using a cell phone illegally. Driving behavior also changed noticeably in each city. Syracuse detected cell phone use by drivers decreased by 32 percent, while Hartford reported a 57 percent decrease in handheld cell phone use, as well as, 72 percent less texting occurring while behind the wheel during the four phases of the project.

“These findings show that strong laws, combined with highly-visible police enforcement, can significantly reduce dangerous texting and cell phone use behind the wheel,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. “Based on these results, it is crystal clear that those who try to minimize this dangerous behavior are making a serious error in judgment, especially when half a million people are injured and thousands more are killed in distracted driving accidents.”

The Governors Highway Safety Association is encouraged by the positive results but knows that more research needs to be done before states like North Carolina and South Carolina will fully implement a ban on all cell phones for all drivers. South Carolina currently doesn’t place any restrictions on drivers when it comes to cell phone use and allows all drivers to use cell phones of any kind while driving. North Carolina only bans novice drivers and school bus drivers from talking on handheld devices while driving. Texting is not permitted by anyone behind the wheel in North Carolina.

More and more evidence is showing that distractions are dangerous while you drive. It is expected that these pilot programs will become statewide so motorists are reminded to eliminate as many distractions while driving as possible in order to maintain safety for you and other motorists or pedestrians sharing the same roadways.

The Lee Law Offices, P.A. has been successfully representing car accident victims and their families in North and South Carolina for years. If you have been injured, contact one of our experienced accident attorneys for a free no-obligation appointment to discuss your rights by calling 1-800-887-1965.

Additional Resources:

“Phone in One Hand, Ticket in the Other” cuts distracted driving by a third, by Kat DeMaria, Your News Now

Distracted Truck Drivers Lead to Deadly Incidents at North Carolina Railroad Crossings, North Carolina Car Accident Lawyers Blog, July 5, 2011

Feds Look to Reduce Distracted Driving Accidents in North Carolina, South Carolina, North Carolina Car Accident Lawyers Blog, July 16, 2011

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