NHTSA Launches Nationwide Campaign To Reduce Texting While Driving Car Accidents
Federal highway safety officials are promoting an annual distracted driving campaign this month, which is intended to emphasize the importance of putting phones and other distractions away while behind the wheel, to avoid serious and potentially fatal auto accidents.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) launched its “U Drive. U Text. U Pay” campaign on April 3, as part of the agency’s annual Distracted Driving Awareness Month efforts to combat distracted driving car accidents.
Despite increased attention on the risks of using smart phones and other devices while driving, officials warn that there is an alarming trend in the growing number of distracted driving car accident deaths in recent years, citing recent data that found the number of fatailities associated with with distracted drivers increased by 12% from 2020 to 2021, now accounting for 8.2% of all crash fatalities.
“U Drive. U Text. U Pay.”
As part of the Distracted Driving Awareness Month program, NHTSA officials ran a $5 million media campaign from April 3, through April 10, targeting high-risk individuals between the ages of 18 to 34-year-old age group. The campaign included television, radio, and social media public service ads in both English and Spanish.
Featuring the campaign’s slogan “U Drive. U Text. U Pay”, with ads focused on the physical dangers and financial consequences of distracted driving, such as legal fees and fines.
The media blitz was designed as a “high visibility enforcement” measure and is intended to coincide with a nationwide increase in police enforcement of texting and driving laws.
Texting while driving is currently illegal in 48 states, Washington, D.C., and most U.S. territories. Depending on the state, it is considered a “first offense” in many jurisdictions, and can result in fines, loss of license points, and even jail time.
Number of Roadway Deaths a National Crisis
As part of the annual campaign, NHTSA officials are pointing to a recent report on the costs of distracted car accidents, indicating distracted driving not only kills innocent people, but also comes with a staggering economic cost of approximately $98.2 billion in medical expenses, lost wages, legal fees, and insurance rate increases in 2019 alone.
Programs such as Distracted Driving Awareness Month are part of an overall government plan to combat rising car crash fatalities and severe injuries for both drivers and pedestrians.
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Last year U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg released the National Roadway Safety Strategy (NRSS); a comprehensive approach to reducing what he called a “continuing crisis” of preventable roadway deaths. The new NRSS program is included in the recently passed Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, a $1.2 trillion investment in U.S. transportation system upgrades and safety improvements.
As part of the NRSS, the U.S. Department of Transportation launched a “Safe System” approach to address driver behavior, vehicle safety technology, roadway improvements, and post-crash care. It includes the following goals:
- Work with states and local road owners to build and maintain safer roadways.
- Leverage technology to improve the safety of motor vehicles on roadways.
- Invest in road safety through federal funding for behavioral research, interventions, and highway safety improvement programs.
“These new data tell us just how much harm distracted driving can cause and why a nationwide campaign is more important today than ever”, said NHTSA’s Deputy Administrator Sophie Shulman in a statement announcing the 2023 Distracted Driving Awareness Month.
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