Distracted driving can be a serious issue on Massachusetts roads. It is difficult to estimate its true cost since its role in accidents is not always easily determined, but experts agree that thousands of lives are lost each year to people getting distracted while behind the wheel. Whether it is caused by cell phones, drowsiness or other factors, driving while distracted has long been a concern of safety advocates. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has found that there may be measures beyond stricter laws and enforcement that can help reduce these behaviors.
Reducing harmful behavior
A common finding in traffic safety surveys is that even when people agree that certain behaviors are dangerous, they still engage in them. While there are several that can cause distractions while driving, such as eating, mobile phone usage remains a main concern. Therefore, safety advocates are looking at how people use their phones in their vehicles, what barriers exist to not using them and how social pressure can help reduce their usage.
Discouraging phone usage
Many drivers still do not understand that even a quick glance at a cell phone can cause motor vehicle accidents, but creating a social climate where this is unacceptable in the same way that drunk driving is, where people feel pressure from their peers, can help change this. However, structural changes are needed as well. For example, according to the IIHS survey, workplace policies that do not require or that discourage the use of phones while driving would help.
There are potential technological solutions as well, such as more voice activation although even voice-only interactions can be distracting. Helping users better understand that they can turn off some notifications and keep urgent ones may also cut back on distraction.
Ultimately, social, structural and technological solutions need to work together in order to prevent distracted driving based on phone usage. Social pressure can also help reduce incidences of distracted driving caused by other actions as well. As people better understand the consequences of their actions and face disapproval from friends and family, they may drive more safely.