The Governor's Highway Safety Association has just completed a comprehensive research project on distracted driving with a grant from State Farm. The report analyzes everything from how often drivers are distracted to what draws their attention away from the road and what states can do to help curtail irresponsible behavior among motorists in the future. As it turns out, drivers are distracted as much as half of the time they're behind the wheel by anything from passengers to eating, changing the radio station and fielding a phone call. Additionally, a 100-car study revealed that in 80 percent of crashes, the driver was found to be looking away from the road at the time of the incident.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, the study says that the worst of all distractions is the cell phones. The study found that drivers are about four times as likely to crash while using a handheld as those who refrain from talking while driving.

The Governor's Highway Safety Association study recommends that states use rumble strips both on the sides of roadways and in the center to help drivers become more aware of their surroundings. According to the study, the moment, there's no evidence that laws banning cell phone use while driving have had any impact on driver behavior. You can check out the full study by heading to the GHSA's website. Click past the jump for the press release on the report.
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Comprehensive Review of Distracted Driving Research Released

State Action Recommended But More Research Needed

WASHINGTON, D.C. --The Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA) released the first comprehensive overview summarizing distracted driving research for state officials. The report considered research from more than 350 scientific papers published between 2000 and 2011.

GHSA produced the new report--Distracted Driving: What Research Shows and What States Can Do --with a grant from State Farm®. The report summarizes: what distracted driving is, how often drivers are distracted, how distraction impacts driver performance and crash risk, what countermeasures may be most effective and what states can do to reduce distracted driving.

"Despite all that has been written about driver distraction, there is still a lot that we do not know," saidGHSA Executive Director Barbara Harsha, who oversaw the report's development. "Much of the research is incomplete or contradictory. Clearly, more studies need to be done addressing both the scope of the problem and how to effectively address it."

The report outlines the following certainties:

Distractions affect driving performance.
Drivers frequently are distracted, perhaps as much as half the time.
Drivers adapt to some extent: they pay more attention to driving and reduce their distracting activities in more risky driving situations.
Distractions are estimated to be associated with 15 to 25 percent of crashes at all levels from minor property damage to fatal injury.
Texting likely increases crash risk more than cell phone use.
Cell phone use increases crash risk.
Based on the existing research, the report urges states to implement the following countermeasures:

Continue to leverage effective, low-cost roadway countermeasures such as edgeline and centerline rumble strips, which alert motorists when they are drifting out of their driving lane.
Record distracted driving in crash reports to the extent possible, to assist in evaluating distracted driving laws and programs.
Monitor the impact of existing hand-held cell phone bans prior to enacting new laws. States that have not already passed handheld bans should wait until more definitive research and data are available on these laws' effectiveness.
Evaluate other distracted driving laws and programs. Evaluation will provide the information states need on which countermeasures are effective and which are not.
The report also lists countermeasures that states should consider, including:

Enact a texting ban for all drivers and a complete cell phone ban (both hands-free and hand-held) for novice drivers.
Enforce all existing cell phone and texting laws.
Implement distracted driving communication programs.
Help employers develop and implement distracted driving policies and programs.
GHSA Executive Director Barbara Harsha stressed, "While distracted driving is an emotional issue that raises the ire of many on the road, states must take a research-based approach to addressing the problem. Until more research is conducted, states need to proceed thoughtfully, methodically and objectively."

Harsha also noted that high visibility texting and hand-held cell phone enforcement demonstration projects in New York and Connecticut, funded by the states and the U.S. Department of Transportation and modeled after the Click It or Ticket seat belt program, are proving to be effective in helping to change motorist behavior. "Our report includes the preliminary results of these cell phone crackdowns, which have prompted dramatic declines in hand-held cell phone use and texting behind the wheel. The final results are expected shortly and should be considered as states move forward with education and enforcement initiatives."

Distracted Driving: What Research Shows and What States Can Do was developed by GHSA. Eric Williams-Bergen, Science Librarian, St. Lawrence University, searched the distracted driving research. James Hedlund, Principal, Highway Safety North, summarized the research. Karen Sprattler, Principal, Sprattler Group, edited the report. Susan Ferguson, Principal, Ferguson International LLC, and Cheri Marti, former Director, Minnesota Office of Traffic Safety, reviewed the drafts.


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