August 5, 2021
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The Governors Highway Safety Association issued the first report from the Behavioral Traffic Safety Cooperative Research Program – a collaboration between GHSA, the Transportation Research Board, and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration that seeks to increase understanding of behavioral traffic safety topics and propose practical solutions.

[Above photo by Caltrans.]

This new report – entitled Using Electronic Devices While Driving: Legislation and Enforcement Implications – examines ways to improve state laws and enforcement efforts to curb “distracted driver” crashes, which killed 3,142 people in 2019, up nearly 10 percent from 2018.

Photo by the California Highway Patrol

For this report, GHSA noted in a statement that researchers at Westat reviewed distracted driving laws as well as enforcement and public education practices across the United States and Canada to develop a library of resources and best practices that states and other stakeholders can use to enact or revise their laws and enhance enforcement and education efforts.

Those researchers found that jurisdictions with strong traffic safety laws, supported by enforcement, public education and outreach, tend to have lower overall traffic fatality rates. They added that the most effective anti-distracted driver state laws and safety efforts shared four common elements:

  • Unambiguous statutory language that clearly defines when and how wireless devices can and cannot be used.
  • Penalties and fines in line with other traffic citations.
  • A combination of high-visibility enforcement of the law and targeted public information, education and outreach campaigns.
  • Sustained coalition-building efforts.

TRB plans to host a webinar on March 15 from 1 to 2:30 p.m. ET to discuss the report’s findings, examine distracted driving public awareness strategies and successes in various jurisdictions, and share best practices with stakeholders.

Along similar lines, NHTSA recently formed a data-sharing partnership with eight automakers and MITRE Corp. that seeks ways to use traffic analytics to improve roadway safety.

In January, that group – called Partnership for Analytics Research in Traffic Safety or PARTS – began a study that encompasses some 40 million vehicles from model year 2015 to 2021 to analyze the effectiveness of Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS), including Automatic Emergency Braking (AEB) systems and lane management systems.

The group said in a statement that the study’s results should provide “real-world insights” into the current safety benefits and emerging safety opportunities of both current ADAS technologies and future Automated Driving Systems (ADS) as well.

editor@aashto.org

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