Following up on last week’s National Work Zone Awareness Week, April is Distracted Driving Awareness Month across the United States. This month long initiative focuses on advocacy, awareness and education of distracted driving hazards.
Across the U.S. and Canada, there are laws prohibiting the use of cell phones and/or texting while driving, however more than 2/3 drivers use their phones while driving (AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety). Distracted driving isn’t just texting and driving; it includes any activity that distracts and diverts attention from driving. More than 3,300 Americans were killed in car accidents that involved a distracted driver in 2011.
Creating Awareness and Providing Education
Safety and distracted driving was named as one of the top focuses for 2013 in Miovision’s Trends in Transportation webinar which was presented in early January. Each year, government agencies such as the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) and Insurance Institute of Highway Safety (IIHS) focus on improving highway safety through numerous initiatives such as these awareness campaigns:
- National High Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA): “Phone in one hand, ticket in another” initiative. Zero tolerance from law enforcement has been effective in decreasing cell phone usage while driving.
- The U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT): Blueprint for Ending Distracted Driving which provides a framework that government agencies can apply to reducing crashes related to driver distraction.
Ray LaHood has reviewed this topic numerous times on his blog and also had a guest contributor, Capt. Shannon Trice of the Syracuse Police Department, address the issue. Captain Trice stated the best way to address safety issues such as distracted driving is by the three E’s: Education, Engineering and Enforcement. These E’s have also been adopted by the FHWA as a means to improve road safety.
Engineering that improves roadway infrastructures contributes to safer roads and driving conditions for all road users. One infrastructure change that has risen in popularity over the past several years is replacing signalized intersections with roundabouts to improve safety. Roundabouts have mixed reviews among citizens; however research by the FHWA states that in converting a signalized intersection to a roundabout decreases severe crashes by up to 78% and overall crashes by up to 48%. Improvements can be added to roundabouts in order to maximize their safety for all road users.
Government agencies are continually creating materials for municipalities to use to improve safety, such as the Blueprint for Ending Distracted Driving. In early 2012, the FHWA updated their safety countermeasures which take a data driven approach to reduce serious injuries and fatalities on American highways. These countermeasures’ implementation are all tracked and monitored by the FHWA Office of Safety.
Decreasing Risks and Improving Safety on the Road
Eliminating risks from the road way is the most proactive approach in reducing accidents. Zero tolerance and awareness campaigns will educate the public and reduce the number of distracted drivers on the road. However, improving the safety of roads and infrastructure especially when there are on-site workers or other road users, such as bicyclists, is crucial.
Miovision’s data collection solutions reduce the amount of time technicians spend in the field for traffic data collection, increasing safety. The Scout Video Collection Unit is deployed away from the road and records traffic movements independently without requiring on-site supervision. For organizations that outsource traffic data collection, Traffic Data On Demand also utilizes the Scout and ensures data is collected safely and accurately.