Task Force Hopes To Reduce Distracted Driving

Distracted Driving Task Force releases report:

It started in early 2015 and did not relent in 2016: a tragic spike in traffic fatalities in Oregon that harkens back to older times, when people didn’t wear seatbelts and driving fast was cool. The Oregon Department of Transportation put out a call for task force members to help address what was – and is – an increasing factor in these deadly crashes: distracted driving. After meeting several times over the past year, the task force is now calling for action in the areas of legislation, research, enforcement, and communications & education.

Read the full report on the Distracted Driving Task Force page.

“AAA has long advocated for action to reduce the incidence of distracted driving, backed up by our research done by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety,” said Marie Dodds of AAA Oregon/Idaho and member of the task force. “We can address this problem but only with bold steps and personal responsibility. This report is a big step in that direction.”

In addition to AAA, task force members came from ODOT, the judicial system, law enforcement, the Oregon Legislature, the cell phone industry, education, the Oregon Association of Broadcasters, local governments, bicycle advocates, and behavioral psychology.

Among the top recommendations:

  • Pass legislation to bolster the laws prohibiting distracted driving.
  • Engage in a broad-based, educational community-focused campaign to deter distracted driving by creating friendly competition between groups using a free mobile app.

“I am so impressed by the dedication and single-minded purpose of the members of the task force,” said Matt Garrett, director of the Oregon Department of Transportation. “The problem we face is pervasive, so the solutions we propose must also be creative, effective and long lasting. If only half the recommendations in this report come to pass, we will see a decrease in distracted driving in this state, making it safer for all of us.”

Several pieces of legislation have already been introduced into the 2017 Oregon Legislature. Examples include making it easier for law enforcement to cite distracted driving and adding an educational component as a diversion to a first offense. Director Garrett, AAA and law enforcement testified in support of HB 2597 – one such bill – in House Judiciary on Monday.

As one of the recommendations, the education campaign takes a positive approach to reducing distracted driving by encouraging healthy driving habits, backed up by a mobile app to help keep participants accountable to one another. This approach also empowers local advocates to create their own distracted driving campaigns and recommends enlisting the power of Oregon’s print and broadcast media to amplify the message. A statewide version of the campaign is expected to launch in the near future.

The task force’s work is in addition to ongoing efforts by ODOT and its partners around the state. A new web page, “Working together to improve safety on Oregon roads” discusses what we are doing right now to help make our roadways safer.

Information provided by ODOT