Oregon, Washington Take on Distracted Driving Epidemic with New Campaigns, Tougher Laws

798px-I-55_I-40_West_Memphis_AR_distracted_driving_warning_signIn Oregon, 75 percent of drivers admit to driving distracted. Nationally, at least that many drivers are eating, shaving, putting on makeup, texting, reading the newspaper … while driving a vehicle.

“As a culture I think we’re ready for a change,” said Tom Fuller, Oregon DOT communications manager, in a recent news release announcing a new statewide campaign there intended to help people drive more safely.

“The stories of deaths and injuries from distracted driving are as horrific as they are preventable,” Fuller added.

drivehealthyThat’s why Oregon DOT has teamed up with a mobile app, LifeSaver, to help reduce distracted driving by making “healthy driving” a competition. Oregon residents can sign up to participate at DriveHealthy.org, then download the app onto a smartphone. The app awards points for healthy driving behaviors.

According to the ODOT release, the campaign comes as the result of the recommendations from a statewide task force convened by ODOT Director Matthew Garrett in 2016.

“The concept is simple. Groups of Oregonians band together to compete with others to see who can keep their phones locked while driving. School against school, Rotary club against the Kiwanis, one church challenges another across town.  The free app shows the top scorers in each category, plus your organization’s monthly score.” – Oregon DOT statement

In nearby Washington State, elected officials have legislated tougher distracted driving enforcement with a new law that took effect July 23 that allows officers to cite drivers with “Electronics DUI.” The Oregon legislature this year passed a similar measure.

According to Washington state media reports, Washington State Patrol officers are handing out lots of warnings in the first days since the new law took effect. Hopefully drivers are getting the message.

Using handheld devices of any kind – cellphones, tablets, laptops and video games – while driving is now a primary offense in Washington, and violations are reported to insurance companies.

The Washington state law goes even further, making it possible to get a $99 ticket for being “dangerously distracted” if a driver is caught grooming, eating, reading, smoking (yes, smoking).

The Oregon announcement noted that the campaign already has many partners.

“In addition to AAA Oregon/Idaho, ODOT, and the Oregon State Police, they include: the Oregon Association of Broadcasters, the Oregon Newspaper Publishers Association and LifeSaver.” – Oregon DOT statement

Wouldn’t it be great if the driving public would get on board, too?

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Author: Lloyd Brown

I am the director of communications for the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials. I enjoy running marathons and triathlons, playing guitar and spending time with family. My professional interest is in how social media and new technology shapes the communication relationship between government and the general public. I have a Master’s degree in Communications and Leadership from Gonzaga University in Spokane and a bachelor’s degree in Communications from Washington State University.

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