LaHood’s plan seeks to encourage the 11 states without distracted driving laws to take action, although there were no specifics on how this would be achieved.
The new Department of Transportation plan also calls for the auto industry to adopt “new and future guidelines for technology to reduce the potential for distraction,” but it was unclear if this signaled any kind of increased pressure on vehicle makers.
The DOT chief unveiled the Blueprint at a press conference in Washington. He was accompanied by Ali Holden, who was severely injured in a crash blamed on a distracted driver.
“Distracted driving is an epidemic,” LaHood said June 7. “While we’ve made progress in the past three years by raising awareness about this risky behavior, the simple fact is people are continuing to be killed and injured — and we can put an end to it.”
The $2.4 million in funding for Northern California and Delaware was billed as an expansion of the DOT’s “Phone in One Hand, Ticket in the Other” campaign.
The combination of increased enforcement and media PSA campaigns will be similar to those undertaken in 2011 in Hartford, Ct., and Syracuse, N.Y.
The DOT cited “dramatic declines in distracted driving” in those communities, including a 72 percent decline in texting & driving in Hartford.
The new Phone in One Hand, Ticket in the Other campaign covers much larger areas, however.
The California program targets eight counties in the Sacramento valley region, while the Delaware program will be conducted statewide. The campaigns are scheduled to begin later this year.
Update: In California, about $1.5 million will go to campaigns in December, February or March, and June, the Office of Traffic Safety told the L.A. Times.
“We’re coupling extra officers with a lot of media coverage to let people know distracted driving is dangerous and law enforcement will catch you,” said a spokesman for the OTS. (end update)
LaHood said at the press conference: “We know that good laws work and good enforcement works. He again declined to endorse a full ban on cell phone use, as proposed by the NHTSA, saying the research was unclear.
Otherwise, the “Blueprint for Ending Distracted Driving” (link to PDF) was a rehash of previously known initiatives and policies under consideration. It summarized most of the DOT’s actions against distracted driving in the past three years.
LaHood previously engaged automakers on several occasions. The DOT issued voluntary guidelines and the industry has been closely monitoring electronic distracted driving laws.
States without text messaging bans for all drivers are Arizona, Florida, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, New Mexico, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota and Texas. All of Hawaii is covered by distracted driving laws, but they originated at the county (island) level.