The University of Washington Harborview Injury Prevention and Research Center conducted a study on distracted driving enforcement.
Using focus groups of police officers from King County, Whatcom County, and Spokane County, researchers identified some common problems, including: distracted driving laws are difficult to enforce.
The study participants proposed a solution.
Laws should prohibit all forms of electronic distraction while driving.
“Officers told us they don’t want to know what someone typing on their phone – just that they shouldn’t be doing it.” said researcher Dr. Beth Ebel.
This problem is clearly illustrated in this video, as a driver explains to an officer what he was doing with his phone.
Washington state law RCW 46.61.668 prohibits sending, reading, or writing a text message while driving.
Washington state law RCW 46.61.667 prohibits hand-held wireless communication device use while driving.
Police officers also pointed out the necessity of changing the social norms and expectations around distracted driving.
The model for this change: the progress on drunk driving over the last several decades.
“…Officers said that laws against drunk driving are now strictly enforced; a similar change is needed limit distracted driving.”
What can we take away from this distracted driving study?
Distracted driving laws need to keep up with rapidly-changing technology. In order for these laws to be effective, they need to be enforceable.
Additionally, distracted driving prevention is going to require a change in how we think about driving. People who would never drive drunk will nonetheless assume the same crash risks by driving distracted. Driving is a primary task, and we need to treat it as such.
Harborview Injury Prevention and Research Center, based in Seattle, Washington, is a global leader in injury cause and injury prevention research. See the abstract of this research: