People process information in different ways. Some individuals will be more moved by a story than by a scientific explanation. Others prefer to evaluate objective data distanced from the emotions generated by personal experience. When it comes to preventing motor vehicle accidents caused by distracted driving, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is attempting to tap into every possible processing technique in order to get its message through. The agency has tried appealing to the heart through personal story campaigns and has tried scare tactics through graphic accident image campaigns. Now, it is simply releasing raw data for the public to contemplate.
Last month, the NHTSA widely circulated data from three prominent distracted driving studies released in 2011 and 2012. For better and worse, the numbers speak for themselves. As of 2011, the vast majority of drivers make and answer calls on their cellphones while driving. A substantial number also text while driving. This basic trend places every motorist on the roads in danger at any given time.
In 2011 alone, more than 3,300 Americans perished in accidents involving distracted drivers. Nearly a dozen times that number of people were injured that year in distracted driving crashes. When you start to think about the fact that every single number contributing to those statistics represents a full human life, these numbers become staggering.
Interestingly, nearly 95 percent of Americans support texting while driving bans and almost 75 percent support bans on using all handheld devices behind the wheel. Though the number of distracted driving accidents claiming the lives and well-being of Americans continues to skyrocket, the cultural attitudes related to the practice are shifting in favor of safety. Hopefully the NHTSA's efforts will continue to sway public opinion and ultimately lead to a decrease in both distracted driving behavior and related accident rates.
Source: Cars.com, "NHTSA Sees No Decline in Distracted Driving," Matt Schmitz, Apr. 9, 2013