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What’s the best approach to reducing distracted driving rates?

Safety advocates and government regulators have been wrestling with one important question for quite some time: how can we reduce distracted driving on American roads? There is certainly the legal approach. California has some of the most comprehensive anti-distracted-driving laws in the nation.

There is also the technological approach. App makers and tech innovators are constantly introducing products that make it harder for drivers to use their cellphones behind the wheel. The only approach remaining is one that many seem skeptical about: public awareness and education.

A recent conference of the Governors Highway Safety Association included a panel discussion on the pros and cons of technology used on the road. Naturally, the problem of auto accidents caused by distracted driving was central to this discussion.

Researchers on the panel seemed to agree that while tech solutions and stringent enforcement of laws are both necessary, distracted driving will continue to be a major problem until or unless we can change the culture.

One panel member noted that “You can’t really talk about distraction and technology without considering the social context in which it happens because the social influences have always pushed bad behavior, even if you have good technology.”

Previous public awareness campaigns have arguably been effective, including the 1980s campaign to change public opinion on the use of seatbelts and the ongoing campaign to discourage Americans from drinking and driving. Some people still forget/refuse to buckle up and drunk driving is still a problem, but the majority of Americans now choose to buckle up and to drive sober.

On the other hand, most of the public already realizes that texting and other forms of distracted driving are dangerous. Yet the problem seems to be getting worse rather than better. Is distracted driving an issue we can solve through public awareness and safety campaigns? What do readers think?

Source: Huffington Post, “To Fix Distracted Driving, Experts Say Target The People, Not The Tech,” Bianca Bosker, Aug. 27, 2013

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