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Harvard Dean Says Comedians Can Help Prevent Distracted Driving

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Distracted driving poster courtesy of SafetyPoster.com

Courtesy of SafetyPoster.com

An associate dean at Harvard’s School of Public Health has suggested that comedians be recruited to make fun of distracted drivers, to shame them into stopping, as Ashley Halsey III writes for The Washington Post. Jay A. Winsten made his remarks at a public forum on campus Monday. In a video excerpt of the event appearing on Harvard School of Public Health’s “In the News” page, Winsten says that distracted driving creates more danger on the roads than drunk driving because it goes on 24/7, unlike drunk driving which mostly happens at night on weekends.

Winsten said a cellphone is like a magnet, and is hard to ignore when it rings or gives a signal that there is a new text message, Haley writes. When you respond to a cellphone while driving, “You’re ‘really showing that you’re out of control, that you can’t stop, that you can’t put it down,’ ” Haley quotes Winsten as saying.

Haley reports that U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Anthony R. Foxx was also at the forum and said it is time to “shock Americans into reality about the dangers of texting while driving.” Young drivers are the most at risk for texting, and about a quarter of them respond to at least one text message every time they drive, Foxx said.

According to the National Occupant Protection Use Survey, conducted in 2012, “about 660,000 drivers in the talking on cellphones or manipulating electronic devices while driving during daylight in the United States,” Haley writes. In his remarks, Winsten said that The National Safety Council is deeply concerned that in-car infotainment systems, which are becoming more and more available in new vehicles, will create an even greater risk of car accidents than cellphones alone.

In April 2013, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) issued guidelines calling on automakers to limit the distraction risks that built-in infotainment systems create, Winsten writes. The guidelines ask that certain features of the systems be disabled unless a vehicle is stationary and shifted into park. They include text messaging, Web browsing, and social media. Although the guidelines would be voluntary, Winsten writes that they will “have teeth.”

In Colorado, State Representative Jovan Emerson Melton (D-Aurora) proposed a bill that would limit the use of cell phones while driving and ban drivers from using smartphone apps, as this blog reported. But as Melton’s website notes, “Restrictions on cellphone use while driving in Colorado won’t advance this year after lawmakers missed a deadline to vote on the bill,” according to an Associated Press report this month. If the bill had passed, Colorado would have become the 13th state that requires people to use a hands-free device if they talk on the phone while driving.

Here is a video that uses humor to discourage distracted driving. It has been viewed more than 2 million times on Youtube:

 

One Response to “Harvard Dean Says Comedians Can Help Prevent Distracted Driving”

  • Judy Pokras says:

    After writing this, a news item appeared about a comic book that seeks to prevent distracted driving. You can read about it on this blog, on May 1.

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