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Educational efforts aimed at distracted driving are unflagging

Do classes on distracted driving, well, really drive home the point that behaviors such as texting and talking on phones while behind the wheel are as dangerous as driving drunk — and sometimes more deadly — and truly need to be stopped?

Although evidence on that seems to be mixed, safety advocates will certainly never stop trying to eradicate problematic driving behaviors through educational programs, including classroom instruction.

A recent example that might interest our readers in Ohio and other states comes from California, where, in San Diego, university researchers are teaming with that state’s Highway Patrol in a new initiative that they are hopeful will have a positive effect on all participants.

The program is called Just Drive — Take Action Against Distraction, and it proceeds with recognition that texting and talking on the phone while driving are flatly huge catalysts in causing car accidents. Linda Hill, who is a UC San Diego professor and safety principal at the school, says that drivers engaging in cellphone calls have a crash risk that is four times higher than do drivers who are not similarly preoccupied. In fact, she says, that increased risk makes them just about as dangerous as drunk drivers.

And outcomes are far worse for behind-the-wheel texters, who Hill says can be up to 16 times more dangerous than fully focused drivers.

The educational program is set to begin next month. Each class will last about an hour, with instructors imparting information on cellphone research, driving laws and self-help resources. Additionally, participants will hear real-life stories from other drivers who made bad decisions through being distracted, as well as relevant information from Highway Patrol troopers.

Hill is confident that society will eventually embrace a new safety-enhancing attitude toward distracted driving. She notes other campaigns that, while slow to gain traction initially, were eventually able to change public perceptions, such as initiatives geared eliminating drunk driving and smoking in public places.

Source: U-T San Diego, “Class aims to refocus distracted drivers,” Chris Nichols, Dec. 4, 2013