NHTSA launches first-ever national distracted driving campaign with brutal ad

It used to be that most of the car-related public service announcements on TV focused on preventing drunk driving and getting people to buckle their seatbelts, but the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has launched grisly new ads combatting distracted drivers with the slogan "U Drive. U Text. U Pay." The spots will see heavy rotation in April because it's National Distracted Driving Awareness Month. To further ram the message home, the Department of Transportation has coordinated with law enforcement for a national crackdown on cell phone use while behind the wheel from April 10-15.

While we've heard this message for years, distracted driving is still a major issue. NHTSA just released a report that estimates that 3,328 people were killed and 421,000 were injured in crashes caused by distracted driving in 2012. It also found that federally funded enforcement programs combined with PSAs reduced the dangerous practice from 4.1 percent to 2.7 percent in California and from 4.5 percent to 3.0 percent in Delaware.

The PSAs – which are nearly identical save different endings – show a group of young people in a car being subjected to the dangers of distracted driving. These spots don't pull any punches, so consider yourself forewarned, they are pretty graphic. Scroll down to check out the videos as well as the regulator's official statement.

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U.S. DOT Launches First-Ever Distracted Driving Enforcement and Advertising Campaign
NHTSA 10-14
Thursday, April 3, 2014

Also releases initial results of California, Delaware demonstration programs

WASHINGTON – To kick off National Distracted Driving Awareness Month, U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx today announced the Department of Transportation's first-ever, national advertising campaign and law enforcement crackdown to combat distracted driving. As part of the effort, television, radio and digital advertisements using the phrase U Drive. U Text. U Pay. will run from April 7-15, which coincides with a nationwide law enforcement crackdown in states with distracted driving bans.

"This campaign puts distracted driving on par with our efforts to fight drunk driving or to encourage seatbelt use," said Secretary Foxx. "Across the country, we're putting distracted drivers on notice: If you're caught texting while driving, the message you receive won't be from your cell phone, but from law enforcement - U Drive. U Text. U Pay."

At today's press conference, Secretary Foxx was joined by David Friedman, Acting Administrator of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), which estimates that 3,328 people were killed and an estimated 421,000 were injured in distraction-related crashes in 2012. The new ads unveiled today remind the public of these deadly consequences, as well as the penalties for getting caught violating the state distracted driving laws. The campaign will run in English and Spanish. Watch the ad on

This $8.5 million national advertising campaign supports the first-ever national distracted driving high-visibility enforcement (HVE) crackdown, which will run from April 10 to April 15, 2014. Thousands of law enforcement personnel nationwide will use traditional and innovative strategies to crack down on motorists who text and drive. The national campaign builds on the success of two federally funded distracted driving state demonstration programs that took place in California and Delaware, Phone in One Hand. Ticket in the Other.

"National campaigns like Click It or Ticket and local efforts like Phone in One Hand. Ticket in the Other. show that combining good laws with effective enforcement and strong public education campaigns can – and do – change unsafe driving behaviors," said NHTSA Acting Administrator David Friedman. "We will continue to work with our federal, state, and local partners to urge drivers to put down electronic devices and focus on the task of driving."

Data released today from the distracted driving demonstration programs in California and Delaware show that effective advertising coupled with increased high-visibility police enforcement of distraction laws reduced hand-held phone use over a widespread area.

Over three enforcement waves, California police issued more than 10,700 tickets for violations involving drivers talking or texting on cell phones, and Delaware police issued more than 6,200 tickets. Observed hand-held cell phone use dropped by approximately a third at each program site, from 4.1 percent to 2.7 percent in California, and from 4.5 percent to 3.0 percent in Delaware.

Currently, 43 states, D.C., Puerto Rico, Guam, and the U.S. Virgin Islands ban text messaging for drivers of all ages; 12 states, D.C., Puerto Rico, Guam, and the U.S. Virgin Islands prohibit drivers of all ages from using hand-held cell phones while driving; and 37 states and D.C. ban cell phone use by novice drivers.

To prevent distracted driving, motorists are urged to:

Turn off electronic devices and put them out of reach before starting to drive.
Be good role models for young drivers and set a good example. Talk with your teens about responsible driving.
Speak up when you are a passenger and your driver uses an electronic device while driving. Offer to make the call for the driver, so his or her full attention stays on the driving task.
Always wear your seat belt. Seat belts are the best defense against other unsafe drivers.

View NHTSA's Traffic Tech report on the California and Delaware Demonstration Program
View the Distracted Driving 2012 Research Note
View the Driver Electronic Devise Use in 2012 Research Note

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