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Suggested Citation:"Chapter 1 - Background." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2021. Using Electronic Devices While Driving: Legislation and Enforcement Implications. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26082.
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Suggested Citation:"Chapter 1 - Background." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2021. Using Electronic Devices While Driving: Legislation and Enforcement Implications. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/26082.
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2 Background Driver distraction is defined as a diversion of attention away from activities critical for safe driving and toward a competing activity (Lee et al. 2008). Distraction is a subset of inattention, which is characterized by activity that actively diverts the driver’s attention from the driving task, such as talking or texting on a cell phone; eating and drinking; talking to other occupants in the vehicle; and adjusting the temperature, radio, entertainment, or navigation system controls. An estimated 2,841 people were killed in motor vehicle crashes involving distracted drivers in 2018 (National Center for Statistics and Analysis 2019b). Driver distraction is likely under- reported as a cause in crashes; therefore, fatalities caused by distracted driving may be much greater (National Center for Statistics and Analysis 2019a). Research has shown that driver distraction, in particular visual and manual activities such as interaction with an electronic device, is related to higher crash risk. One study examining the relationship between cell phone use and crash risk, based on case crossover analysis using naturalistic driving data, visual–manual tasks overall, and texting in particular, found increased incidents of crashes relative to driving without performing any observable secondary tasks [visual– manual interaction overall: odds ratio (OR) 1.83, 95% confidence interval (CI) 1.03–3.25; texting: OR 2.22, CI 1.07–4.63] (Owens et al. 2018). While the findings also point to a slight elevation in crash involvement during handheld cell phone conversations, this was not statistically signifi- cant. Using data from the same naturalistic study, analysis of prevalence of driver cell phone use indicated that this behavior is fairly common, with drivers making an average of 1.6 texts and 1.2 calls per hour of driving (Atwood et al. 2018). Among younger drivers, calls (and in particular texting) were more pervasive behaviors. Drivers aged 16 through 19 sent an average of 2.9 texts per hour of driving, and drivers of ages 20 through 29 sent an average of 2.6 texts per hour of driving. After adjusting for age and gender effects, the findings also point to increased crash rates for drivers who are texting. Severe crash rates increased 8.3%, and overall crash rates increased 6.5% for every text per hour of driving. The call rates per hour of driving, however, did not have a significant relationship with crash rates. Numerous studies in laboratory and simulator settings also point to the negative effects of electronic device use on driver performance (see Caird et al. 2014; Oviedo-Trespalacios et al. 2016). As a result, many U.S. states and local governments, as well as administrations around the world, have passed laws restricting or banning the use of electronic devices by drivers to talk or text while driving (World Health Organization 2011). As of January 2019, texting while driving was banned in 31 U.S. states; an additional two states had banned manipulation and dialing (in addition to texting); and 27 jurisdictions, including the 10 Canadian provinces, 16 U.S. states, and the District of Columbia, had prohib- ited the use of a handheld electronic device for all drivers on all roadways (see Section 2.1.2). (Throughout this report, the term “jurisdiction” refers to the U.S. states and Canadian provinces unless otherwise specified.) In addition, there are some jurisdictions with special handheld laws covering specific types of drivers, including commercial drivers (one jurisdiction), school C H A P T E R 1

Background 3 bus drivers (two jurisdictions), and drivers under 18 or under graduated driving license (GDL) provisions (six jurisdictions). It is important to note that commercial drivers are already pro- hibited from texting or using handheld cell phones under federal law [49 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) 392.80 and 49 CFR 393.82]. Every year, in many jurisdictions, attempts are made to revise, amend, or update the distracted driving laws. Despite the prevalence of distracted driving laws, the use of electronic devices while driving still remains an issue. Data from the 2018 National Occupant Protection Use Survey (NOPUS) showed that 3.2% of drivers were observed holding a cell phone, and 2.1% of drivers were observed physically manipulating an electronic device (National Center for Statistics and Analysis 2019c). 1.1 Objectives The three main objectives of BTSCRP Project BTS-03, “Examining the Implications of Legis- lation and Enforcement on Electronic Device Use While Driving,” were to: 1. Examine current state and provincial legislation, with a specific focus on the language, penalties, and sanctions used to address distracted driving with respect to use of an electronic device; 2. Evaluate the benefits and impediments associated with enacting, enforcing, and adjudicating electronic device legislation; and 3. Develop model legislation and educational materials that can be used by relevant stake- holders, including legislators, law enforcement, local government, and traffic safety officials, to enact laws and educate key individuals on the importance of the laws. 1.2 Kickoff Meeting The Westat team worked with the TRB Senior Program Officer to conduct a kickoff tele- conference on January 10, 2019. The purpose of this initial meeting was to review the objectives of the project, discuss the planned research approach and project timeline, and provide an opportunity for discussion. Prior to the meeting, Westat prepared and delivered a meeting agenda to help ensure that the discussion addressed all proposed activities. Topics included the project’s objectives and antici- pated challenges, details on Westat’s technical approach, specific types of data to be included in the evaluation, and anticipated deliverable requirements and specifications. During the meet- ing, Westat staff asked the project panel members about their specific areas of interest. Westat documented the decisions and made appropriate updates to the technical approach. 1.3 Work Plan The work plan included a detailed description of how Westat planned to accomplish the research objectives in each of the two phases: (1) data collection and analysis, and (2) devel- oping outreach and model legislative materials. The project panel approved the work plan on January 10, 2019.

Next: Chapter 2 - Examine Current Electronic Device Legislation and Strategies »
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Distracted driving is a complex and ever-increasing risk to public safety on roadways. Drivers’ use of electronic devices significantly diverts human attention resources away from the driving task. The enforcement community faces significant challenges as electronic device use has expanded beyond simply texting or talking. Legislation regulating electronic device use while driving is inconsistent in content and implementation.

The TRB Behavioral Traffic Safety Cooperative Research Program's BTSCRP Research Report 1: Using Electronic Devices While Driving: Legislation and Enforcement Implications presents the results of an examination of the current state and provincial legislation on electronic device use while driving; evaluates the benefits and impediments associated with enacting, enforcing, and adjudicating electronic device use; and proposes model legislation and educational materials that can be used by relevant stakeholders to enact a law and educate key individuals on the importance of the law.

Supplemental the report is a presentation for law enforcement.

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