UDriveUTextUPayThe U.S. Department of Transportation has launched a major new ad campaign against distracted driving, as Brian Williams reported on NBC News. It will be aimed at those people who think they can safely text while driving, Williams said. Advocates say distracted driving needs to be investigated as thoroughly as drunk driving, with police asking to see a driver’s cell phone at the time of an accident, NBC News reports.

Although there is no breathalyzer for distracted driving, as lawyer Todd Clement told NBC News, Ohio and some other states use a device by which they can plug any mobile phone in and learn what a driver was doing on that phone before a crash occurred, NBC reports. The U.S. Supreme Court is right now considering whether investigators can search phones without a warrant, Kate Snow reports in the NBC News video.

As U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx announced Thursday in a press conference, the $8.5 million campaign is the Department of Transportation’s first-ever national advertising campaign and law enforcement crackdown against distracted driving, according to a press release from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. The campaign will include television, radio, and digital ads that will run from April 7 through April 15, featuring the phrase “U Drive. U Text. U Pay.”

The timing of the campaign, whose ads will run in English and Spanish, will coincide with its “High Visibility Enforcement” (HVE) campaign across the U.S. in those states with bans on distracted driving, the statement says. The HVE campaign, to run from April 10 through April 15, will be composed of thousands of law enforcement officers using both traditional and innovative strategies to get tough on motorists who text while driving, the statement says.

Text messaging while driving is now banned in 43 states, plus the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, Guam, and the U.S. Virgin Islands, the statement says. In addition, 37 states and D.C. ban cell phone use by novice drivers. In Colorado, as this blog reported last month, state Rep. Jovan Emerson Melton (D-Aurora) proposed a bill to limit the use of cell phones while driving and prohibit drivers from using smartphone apps.

NHTSA estimates that 3,328 people were killed and about 421,000 were injured in 2012 in distraction-related car accidents, according to the press release. The DOT also released data Thursday showing that demo programs in California and Delaware featuring effective advertising in tandem with increased high-visibility police enforcement of distracted driving laws can reduce hand-held phone use while driving.

DOT Secretary Foxx placed the new national ad slogan in context:

‘This campaign puts distracted driving on par with our efforts to fight drunk driving or to encourage seatbelt use…. Across the country, we’re putting distracted drivers on notice: If you’re caught texting while driving, the message you receive won’t be from your cell phone, but from law enforcement — U Drive. U Text. U Pay.’

The DOT urges drivers to prevent distracted driving as follows:

  • Turn off electronic devices and put them out of reach before starting your vehicle
  • Be a good role model for younger drivers and talk to your teen children about responsible driving
  • Say something right away when you are a passenger and the driver is using an electronic device while driving; offer to make the call for the driver so that his or her full attention is on the road
  • Always wear your seat belt
  • Take a look at NHTSA’s Traffic Tech report on the California and Delaware Demo programs
  • Have a look at the Distracted Driving 2012 Research Note
  • View the Driver Electronic Use in 2012 Research Note
  • You can also follow NHTSA on Twitter @NHTSAgov

Here is the DOT’s new ad:

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