We’ve been tackling the issue of distracted driving for almost three years here at DOT, and I’m proud of how much we’ve accomplished with the help of the many individuals and organizations who share our commitment to safety. But while we have come a long way in this important fight, there is still much work left to be done.
That’s why I’m excited to announce that DOT’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is providing $550,000 to Connecticut and Massachusetts to help them plan and conduct high-visibility anti-texting enforcement programs.
Each state will receive $275,000 to develop and train police officers on better methods for spotting drivers who are texting, to train officers on those methods, and to develop awareness campaigns that alert the public to the dangers of texting and driving.
Today, 39 states have laws on the books that specifically ban texting and 10 states have laws that prohibit the use of handheld cell phones while driving.
But despite the existence of such laws, DOT distracted driving pilot programs conducted in Hartford, Connecticut, and Syracuse, New York, found that it is more challenging for law enforcement officers to detect drivers texting behind the wheel than drivers talking on handheld devices.
In order to more accurately identify and effectively stop the dangerous practice of texting behind the wheel, the demonstration grants announced today call for Connecticut and Massachusetts to develop anti-texting enforcement protocols and techniques such as using stationary patrols, spotters on overpasses on elevated roadways, and roving patrols.
These methods will be tested for effectiveness in four successive waves of high-visibility enforcement activities over a 24-month period, and the results will be shared with other states facing the same challenges so that they can learn from Connecticut and Massachusetts’ experiences.
As NHTSA Administrator David Strickland said, “These two new demonstration programs will help identify real-world protocols and practices to better detect if a person is texting while driving.”
The pilot programs in Hartford and Syracuse have shown that strong laws, strong enforcement, and ongoing public awareness make a noticeable difference in reducing distracted driving. I look forward to seeing the results of the new enforcement programs announced today as we work to put an end to this deadly behavior.