Monday, August 31, 2009

Governors Highway Safety Association Endorses Texting While Driving Ban for All Drivers

Editor Note: At this time, Georgia only bans cell phone use for school bus drivers.

/PRNewswire/ -- The membership of the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA) has enacted a new policy encouraging every state to ban texting behind the wheel for all drivers. GHSA Members are appointed by their governors to lead state highway safety agencies.

According to GHSA Chairman Vernon F. Betkey Jr., "The action by the GHSA membership is based on the fact that texting while driving is indisputably a distraction and a serious highway safety problem. If every state passes a texting ban, it will send a message to the public that this dangerous practice is unacceptable. We can begin to change the culture that has permitted distracted driving." Betkey noted the recent study from the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute influenced the GHSA membership action. That study indicated that a driver who is texting increases crash or near-crash risk by 23 times.

GHSA continues to have concerns about enforcing text messaging bans. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is expected to begin an enforcement demonstration project later this year which the Association fully supports. GHSA is hopeful that U.S. Transportation Secretary LaHood's upcoming summit on distraction and the NHTSA demonstration project will provide a roadmap for developing additional enforcement strategies and countermeasures.

Despite these concerns, GHSA Vice Chairman Lowell Porter is confident that, given all the focus on the issue, effective enforcement solutions are on the horizon. "In the past, there were challenges enforcing seat belt and drunk driving laws. However, the research and highway safety communities collectively worked together and developed successful enforcement programs like Click It or Ticket. I am confident that we can do the same thing with texting bans. GHSA's new policy will help move this process along."

Chairman Betkey noted that this meeting is the first time in a year that GHSA's full membership has met. In that time, texting while driving has gained considerable attention. According to Betkey, "We want to send the strongest message possible about texting behind the wheel--it is dangerous and should not be tolerated."

GHSA's new policy was enacted during its Annual Meeting in Savannah, Georgia. The conference runs through September 2.

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