The federal government and a local coalition of Missouri governments and law enforcement officials both announced campaigns in August 2012 to combat distracted driving. The reasons for doing so are clear and compelling:
- Nine out of 10 teenagers say they don’t drink and drive, yet the same percentage say it’s common to see teen drivers using cell phones, according to the National Teen Driver Survey conducted by State Farm Insurance and Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.
- Nearly 40 percent of Americans in a Nationwide Insurance Distracted While Driving survey said they have been hit or almost hit by a driver using a cell phone.
- According to the U.S. Department of National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 11 percent of all drivers under the age of 20 involved in fatal crashes were reported as distracted at the time of the crash. This age group has the largest proportion of drivers who were distracted.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration outlined a new program for 2013 that willprovide $17.5 million in grants to states that have enacted and are enforcing laws againstdistracted driving. (No driver 21 years old or younger may use a cellphone while behind the wheel in Missouri, which makes Missouri eligible for the grant money.)
At about the same time, a group including the Missouri Department of Transportation (MODOT) and the eight-county Meramec Region Planning Commission announced its own plan to encourage safe driving habits by Missouri motorists. Missouri’s Meramec Region includes the counties of Crawford, Dent, Gasconade, Maries, Osage, Phelps, Pulaski, and Washington. Law enforcement agencies in the counties are also part of the coalition.
Missouri’s Motor Vehicle Fatal Accident Statistics
The Missouri counties in the Meramec Region have recorded 23 motor vehicle accident deaths through June 2012, which represents a 21 percent increase from the prior year. According to the Missouri State Highway Patrol:
- Missouri overall has experienced 423 deaths from motor vehicle accidents through July 2012, which is about a 14 percent increase over the same period in 2011
- During the first half of 2010, distracted drivers – those using cell phones, adjusting the radio, eating, etc. – contributed to 17,535 crashes in Missouri
- The leading cause of motor vehicle fatalities in Missouri is inattentive drivers
The Meramec Region’s stepped-up efforts to encourage safe driving in Missouri will include awareness-building in existing local events, increased promotion of MODOT safety programs in area high schools and elementary schools, and an informational advertising campaign.