According to a survey by the National Safety Council and TRUCE Software, drivers just can’t seem to disconnect from their cellphones behind the wheel – even though nearly all states have some form of legislation prohibiting certain types of distractions.
In the survey of 2,001 registered drivers ages 25 and older across the country, 76% of respondents said they are “very willing” to wear a mask in public, but just 62% are “very willing” to obey a state law preventing cellphone use.
“The finding speaks to a long-standing behavior-change dilemma: Many people will correctly take steps to mitigate immediate risks to their safety – especially if they believe the measure will be temporary, such as wearing a mask – but widespread behavior change that can drive down chronic safety incidents, such as motor vehicle crashes, often takes much longer,” the National Safety Council said in a news release.
Since October is Distracted Driving Awareness Month, the National Safety Council and the survey’s lead sponsor, TRUCE, are urging employers to enact distracted-driving policies at their workplaces to compensate for many drivers’ unwillingness to adhere to state laws.
Further, the National Safety Council (NSC) and TRUCE urge employers to promote a safe driving culture, something the survey indicated many companies may not foster effectively enough. According to survey respondents, 46% say “demands or pressure from work” leads them to glance, read or send emails while driving.
“Clearly, we continue to accept crashes and near-misses as the cost of connectivity,” said Lorraine Martin, president and CEO of the National Safety Council. “As we mark the 10-year anniversary of Distracted Driving Awareness Month, we must commit to improvement – particularly with a national pandemic compounding traffic safety even further. Saving lives will mean disconnecting behind the wheel once and for all so everyone can arrive at their destination safely.”
Thousands die each year in distracted-driving crashes, although National Safety Council investigations show these crashes are significantly underreported and undercounted.
Despite 48 states banning texting while driving, and 25 states banning handheld use, drivers responding to the NSC-TRUCE survey indicated it will take more than laws to change their behaviors. Sixty-one percent said they would need to be involved in a near-miss – and 59% said they would have to be involved in a fatal crash – to be dissuaded from using technology while driving. Fifty-eight percent cited state laws and 52% cited federal laws as being enough to change behavior. Encouragingly, 56% said they believe employers policies are effective distracted-driving deterrents.
“As the survey shows, solving the problem of distracted driving means taking action, not just having a willingness to try,” said Joe Boyle, CEO of TRUCE. “Employers are in a unique position to influence behaviors across large groups of individuals by making sure they have the right policies in place and the tools to enforce those policies, changing not just what happens behind the while but also how the rest of the organization communicates with their driving co-workers.”