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New distracted driving programs found effective

Distracted driving is a major cause of car accidents in Louisiana, but some have argued that cellphone and texting while driving bans create more accidents than they prevent. That notion will likely be challenged by the positive results of two distracted driving pilot programs. The two programs are based on heightened law enforcement and a media blitz aimed at educating the public on the issue.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration the pilot programs entitled "Phone in One Hand, Ticket in the Other" have been highly successful in reducing distracted driving habits. The two pilot programs have operated in Syracuse, New York and Hartford, Connecticut during four, one month campaigns over the last two years. Increased law enforcement and media campaigns were the two tactics used to improve distracted driving behavior. Handheld cellphone use while driving fell by almost 60 percent and texting while driving fell by 72 percent in Hartford. Cellphone use and texting while driving fell by over one-third in Syracuse.

The two strategies used in the campaign were a reinforcement of effective procedures used in successful seat-belt use campaigns and drunken driving campaigns. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said the news of the programs shows that strong laws coupled with highly visible enforcement can substantially reduce dangerous driving behavior. The news also comes on the heels of a report by the Governors Highway Safety Association that said new distracted driving laws should not be passed until new research demonstrates their effectiveness. Perhaps, news of the pilot programs will contribute to improved driving safety policies.

Source: USA Today, "Distracted-driving programs show success," Larry Copeland, 7/11/11

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