In the most recent edition of the Journal of the American Medical Association , Jeffrey Coben, M.D., and co-author Motao Zhu, M.D., PhD argue in a Viewpoint submission that automobile manufacturers must be required by the federal government to design vehicles so that hand-held devices are rendered inoperable when the vehicle is in motion. The authors cite studies that indicate that despite a variety of laws banning hand held cell phone use and texting 40% of respondents to surveys continue to talk on their phones while driving and 13% continue to text.
In the report entitled “Keeping an Eye on Distracted Driving,” the researchers say the number of injuries and fatalities caused by cell phone use while driving has increased by 22 percent between 2005 and 2009. They say the problem is expected to worsen despite efforts to curtail distracted driving, making this an urgent public safety issue that demands immediate attention.
The authors note that educational and legislative efforts have not been effective in reducing injuries and deaths because they have not effectively changed people’s behaviors. The authors argue that the solution lies in engineering and technology which will reduce the use of hand-held devices and that requiring engineering design changes has successfully promoted public safety in the past, citing as examples incorporation of air bags, seat belt tensioning devices, anti-lock brakes and automatic door locks. Accordingly automobile manufacturers must be required to design vehicles so that all hand-held electronic devices are rendered inoperable when the vehicle is in motion.
To listen to an interview with Dr. Coben go to http://jama.jamanetwork.com/multimedia.aspx
Jeffrey Coben, M.D. is the Interim Dean at the School of Public Health and Director of the Injury Control Research Center at West Virginia University. He is a frequently-cited researcher on public safety issues, including distracted driving. To see Dr. Coben’s bio go to http://directory.hsc.wvu.edu/UserDetails/28812