Unit One Article 1

Unit One Article 1 - COMMENTARY MEDICINE AND LAW Reducing...

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COMMENTARY MEDICINE AND LAW Reducing Distracted Driving Regulation and Education to Avert Traffic Injuries and Fatalities Peter D. Jacobson, JD, MPH Lawrence O. Gostin, JD M OTOR VEHICLE DRIVERS ARE INCREASINGLY USING electronic devices while driving for activities such as calling or sending text messages (tex- ting) from cell phones, watching video, and searching the Internet. Automakers are also incorporating electronic devices into standard vehicle design, including dashboard Internet and satellite connections. Because these devices are integrated into everyday life, drivers mistak- enly assume they can be used safely while operating a mo- tor vehicle. Despite their dissimilarities, each of the de- vices distracts a driver’s attention (some more than others), posing a highway safety hazard. In response, cities, states, and the federal government are enacting “distracted driv- ing” laws and regulations. What evidence exists about the risks distracted drivers pose and how to avert them, and what are the respective responsibilities of government, industry, and drivers? Risks of Distracted Driving The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reported that 5870 persons died (16% of all fatalities) and an estimated 515 000 individuals were injured in police- reported crashes involving driver distraction in 2009. 1 The Gen- eral Estimates System estimated that 21% of all reported in- jury crashes involved distracted driving. Using naturalistic driving data (with cameras tracking driving behavior), the Fed- eral Motor Carrier Safety Administration found that texting while driving had the highest odds ratio of a serious vehicu- lar crash relative to 16 other activities that draw a driver’s at- tention from the highway—23.2 times higher than nontex- ting drivers—and that when texting, drivers take their eyes off the road for 4.6 of 6 seconds. 2 While dialing a mobile phone, drivers of light vehicles (cars, vans, and pickup trucks) were 2.8 times as likely as nondistracted drivers to have a crash or near crash, and com- mercial truck drivers were 5.9 times as likely. 3 This re- search supports earlier findings that young drivers who text spend up to 400% more time with their eyes off the road than drivers who do not text, 4 have 6-fold greater odds of a collision, and in simulated driving have impaired lateral and forward vehicle control. 5 A meta-analysis of 125 studies confirmed that cell phone conversations while driving were associated with impaired reaction time and showed no differences in risk between hands-free and handheld phones. 6 According to the High- way Loss Data Institute, the benefits of banning the use of handheld phones are outweighed by the increased use of similarly distracting hands-free devices. The institute found no significant reductions in traffic crashes in states that en- acted handheld cellular phone bans relative to states that had not. 7
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Unit One Article 1 - COMMENTARY MEDICINE AND LAW Reducing...

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