ACPM Presses for New Distracted Driving Policies
According to Reuters Health, texting and driving has become a significant issue in the United States.
The American College of Preventive Medicine (ACPM) is advocating for new laws which, combined with public education, can eliminate the unnecessary risks on the roadways. The ACPM is encouraging policy makers, doctors, and parents to take action with new recommendations focusing on teenagers whom are twice as likely to text or browse the internet as adults.
ACPM and Distracted Driving Statistics
“I was surprised that statistically the risks, given the little hard data we have, are comparable or worse than those of individuals who are driving under the influence.” – Director of the Florida Department of Health in Orange County, Dr. Kevin Sherin as published by Reuters Health
A study indicates that drivers with less than two years experience are 7 times more likely to crash if they reach for a cell phone. That statistic increased to 8 times if they actually used the device.
Studies reveal sending/receiving texts or using the internet while driving increases the risk of crashing by 3.9 times. In focusing on drivers under 20, 11% who were involved in a fatal vehicle accident said they were distracted at the time of the accident.
One in five of the mentioned distractions were stated to have come from a cellphone. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reported distractions played a role in 17% of motor vehicle crashes in 2011 as well as 3,331 of deaths. Furthermore, cellphones were reported to be involved in 12% of the fatalities.
ACPM Proposes Texting and Driving Ban
Recommendations from the ACPM include state bans against driving and texting, harsher penalties for violations, and educating potential drivers when they apply for a license. Other recommendations involve public relations campaigns about the dangers of distracted driving, as well as encouraging primary care doctors and parents to explain the dangers to adolescents, starting at age 15.
Dr. Kevin Sherin, director of the Florida Department of Health in Orange County and one of the central authors of the recommendations published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, stated, “I personally think the penalties for texting and driving should be as harsh as those for driving under the influence, the risks are similar”.
The ACPM also stated further research is needed on the role of texting in distracted driving, effective educational tools, how to successfully advise the public against it, and ad campaigns. Like the ads against drugs and alcohol, television ads in after-school time slots could highlight the consequences of texting while driving for teens, suggested the ACPM committee.
Dr. Linda Hill, clinical professor in the Department of Family and Preventive Medicine at the University of California, San Diego, and fellow ACPM member, told Reuters Health while she agreed with the recommendations – she also thought concern should be placed on the risks of hands-free and hand-held cell phone use while driving.
According to the Governors Highway Safety Administration (GHSA), 14 states have already banned handheld cell phone use for all drivers and 38 states including Washington, D.C. prohibit cell phone use for new drivers. Prohibition of cell phone use for school bus drivers is in effect in 20 states and D.C. Primary enforcement laws for the infractions are used for some states while others use secondary enforcement laws.
Cell Phone Use Among Teen Driver Alarming
In a survey of 5,000 college students in California between 2011 and 2012, Dr. Hill found 90% of students were texting and 90% were talking on the phone while driving.
The survey also revealed that 50% sent texts while driving on the freeway. Dr. Hill commented, “We thought that was pretty scary, what shocked us was that 46% of the kids thought they were capable of distracted driving but thought only 8% of other drivers were.”
According to Zhen Joyce Wang from the Center for Cognitive and Brain Sciences at Ohio State University, that type of unwarranted self-confidence in multitaskers is common further indicating texting while driving can be especially dangerous.
Wang has published studies on the effect of distracted driving and found “both behavioral and eye movement (indicating visual attention) evidence that suggest texting and driving could be more dangerous than making phone calls while driving”. It is stated by the GSHA that 44 states have banned texting while driving.
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