Have you heard the latest acronyms being used to describe our driving - "DWD" and "DWT"? Someday the terms "driving while distracted" and "driving while texting" may become as socially unacceptable as "DWI" (driving while intoxicated) and "DUI" (driving under the influence). The reason? A distracted driver is as dangerous on the road as a driver with a blood alcohol level of .08-and a texting driver is far more dangerous!
Have any of these scenarios ever happened to you or to one of your employees?
If the answer is "yes," you're not alone. You were likely driving while distracted. Although there have always been outside influences distracting drivers, the popularity of cell phones and their growing capabilities has added a whole new level of distraction for drivers. There are now 250 million cell phone subscribers in the U.S.-most of whom operate vehicles on our nation's roadways.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute have reported that nearly 80 percent of crashes and 65 percent of near-crashes involved some form of driver inattention within three seconds before the crash. With statistics like these, it's not surprising that the federal and state governments are taking a closer look at this issue.
On January 13, 2009, the National Safety Council issued a press release that called on motorists to stop using cell phones and messaging devices while driving. The release urged businesses to adopt policies prohibiting cell phone use and called on governors and legislators in all 50 states and the District of Columbia to pass laws banning the behavior.
From September 30 - October 1, 2009, U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood held a Distracted Driving Summit in Washington, DC. On October 1, the Obama Administration announced an executive order banning all federal workers from texting while driving on government business, driving government vehicles, or using government equipment. To visit the government Web site that specifically addresses the issue of distracted driving, click here .
Later in October, the Chairman of the Governors' Highway Safety Association testified at a hearing before the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee supporting a texting ban for all drivers. AAA also announced last fall that it will push to pass laws banning driver text messaging in all 50 states by 2013. According to the AAA Foundation, a ban implemented by the State of California a year ago has reduced on-the-road text messages by 70 percent.
To say that the year 2009 was an active one at the federal and state levels in regard to distracted driving would be an understatement. In 2008, 23 states considered some form of legislation to restrict the use of cell phones or wireless devices. In 2009, more than 200 distracted driving bills were considered in 43 states! To see an up-to-date listing of current state cell phone and text messaging laws, click here.
What Can You Do?
Auto dealers realize their employees are crucial to the success of their dealerships. Educate your staff about the dangers of "DWD" and "DWT" - the two newest acronyms your dealership needs to avoid.
AIADA's Affinity Partner, Federated Insurance offers a safety program called Distracted Driving - At What Cost? that emphasizes the many ways business owners and their drivers can avoid the pitfalls of distracted driving. Contact your local Federated representative to learn how you can equip your employees with risk management strategies to avoid accidents. Click here to locate your Federated Representative, or contact AIADA's National Account Executive, Nate Oland, at 800-533-0472, firstname.lastname@example.org.