SYS-CON MEDIA Authors: Sean Houghton, Glenn Rossman, Ignacio M. Llorente, Xenia von Wedel, Peter Silva

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States Support First Distracted Driving Enforcement Campaign

More Than 40 States Join National Push to Fight Distraction

WASHINGTON, April 3, 2014 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Distracted driving is a significant problem on America's roadways. According to the latest federal data, more than 3,328 were killed people and approximately 421,000 people were injured in crashes involving distracted drivers nationwide in 2012. These numbers are likely under-reported because of the difficulty in determining the role distraction plays in crashes.

Governors Highway Safety Association.

To keep drivers safe, states across the country are joining with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's first coordinated national distracted driving enforcement campaign: U Drive. U Text. U Pay, running April 10-15. The full month of April is National Distracted Driving Awareness Month. While only one state qualified for federal distracted driving funds in 2014 (see funding chart) through the MAP-21 law (Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century), many states are using other limited resources to draw attention to the dangers of distracted driving.

GHSA Executive Director Jonathan Adkins notes, "States recognize that distracted driving is a serious challenge on our roadways. Now that nearly every state bans texting while driving, the focus is on enforcing those laws and reminding the public of the need to focus solely on driving while behind the wheel."

Below are just a few of the many state activities in support of the national campaign:

  • California—The California Office of Traffic Safety is coordinating high visibility enforcement operations by the California Highway Patrol and more than 250 law enforcement agencies across the state. Press conferences will emphasize the startling statistics surrounding cell phone use while driving. Message boards highlighting these statistics will be set up in movie theaters and shopping malls, and TV commercials will warn drivers against becoming a distracted driving "zombie."
  • Florida—The Florida highway safety office is reminding drivers to "Put it Down" through its statewide campaign. A total of 226 law enforcement agencies are participating in enforcement of the state's recently passed texting ban. Educational efforts include website banners, social media, and a proclamation from the Governor. Digital message boards will remind drivers not to text, and social media will spread awareness. The Orlando Sentinel is teaming up with Ford Driving Skills for Life on a booklet for high school seniors that highlights the dangers of texting while driving.
  • Georgia—The Georgia Governor's Office of Highway Safety (GOHS) is using the U Drive. U Text. U Pay message online and through social media to spread the word about the dangers of texting and driving. In addition, GOHS's paid media will target adults in the 18-34 age range, focusing on women. A statewide earned media campaign will kick off Distracted Driving Awareness Month in advance of the enforcement period. Finally, GOHS staff has signed a pledge to be an example to both the Georgia motoring public and other state agencies that they will follow state law and not text and drive.
  • Minnesota—The Minnesota Department of Public Safety/Office of Traffic Safety has stepped up enforcement running April 11-20. Media efforts include press conferences, news release templates for law enforcement, and high school PA announcements. The highway safety office will be live tweeting on April 11 and linking to its teen "body bag" You Tube video on Facebook. The office is also reaching out to diverse communities through African American, Hmong and Latino publications.
  • New York—In addition to unveiling new campaign artwork on billboards, the Governor's Traffic Safety Committee (GTSC) is asking its more than 500 state, local and county police agencies to utilize grant funding to conduct high visibility, stepped up enforcement April 10-15, to coincide with NHTSA's campaign. Locals are being asked to work with their media outlets to arrange for press events during that timeframe. GTSC is utilizing its website and social media to alert the public to expect increased enforcement and using "bonus time" in its cable TV grant to air distracted driving messaging on TV and in social media formats. The NYS Thruway and DOT will support the campaign by posting messages on their variable message boards.
  • Rhode Island—The Rhode Island Department of Transportation Office on Highway Safety is leveraging social media to remind teens that distracted driving can have deadly results. Specifically, the office is developing a series of YouTube videos featuring local teens, and will be running TV and radio spots the week prior to the enforcement campaign, involving 15 municipal police departments and the Rhode Island State Police (RISP). The highway safety office also is working in partnership with AT&T, the Rhode Island Attorney General and RISP on AT&T's It Can Wait campaign. This year, the campaign has visited more than 12 high schools, earning considerable local and statewide press coverage.

For a full list of state activities, go to www.ghsa.org/html/issues/distraction/april2014.html.

State distracted driving laws are at www.ghsa.org/html/stateinfo/laws/cellphone_laws.html.

Visit the U.S. DOT's distracted driving website: http://distraction.gov.

For more information on the national campaign, see http://www.nhtsa.gov.

The Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA) is a nonprofit association representing the highway safety offices of states, territories, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico. GHSA provides leadership and representation for the states and territories to improve traffic safety, influence national policy, enhance program management and promote best practices. Its members are appointed by their Governors to administer federal and state highway safety funds and implement state highway safety plans. Contact GHSA at 202-789-0942 or visit www.ghsa.org. Find us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/GHSAhq or follow us on Twitter @GHSAHQ.

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SOURCE Governors Highway Safety Association

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