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‘Put The Phone Away Or Pay’ Cracks Down On Distracted Driving

Highway safety regulators are kicking off a new campaign to reduce distracted driving, targeting younger drivers who are the most likely to die in distraction-related crashes. Distracted driving is a major cause of traffic deaths and injuries. Such behavior soared during the COVID-19 pandemic, contributing to a spike in road fatalities, Axios reports. Law enforcement agencies will be cracking down on distracted driving under the government's "Put the Phone Away or Pay" campaign, which launched Monday. The campaign's "high-visibility enforcement" portion runs April 4-8, targeting drivers 18 to 34. Fines average $100 in most states, but are as high as $1,000 in Oregon. New National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) data show signs of progress, although fatalities remain high. Some 40,990 people died in traffic crashes in 2023, NHTSA estimates — a decrease of 3.6% compared to 2022's 42,514 fatalities.

Some 3,308 people died and an estimated 289,310 more were injured in crashes involving distracted drivers in 2023. Among those fatalities, 621 were pedestrians or bicyclists. Twenty-seven states and Washington, D.C., have laws banning drivers from using handheld cellphones while driving. Teen drivers are banned from all cellphone use in 36 states and D.C. Every state except Montana bans text messaging while driving. A new study finds that state laws banning handheld phones while driving can be an effective deterrent. Distracted driving dropped by an average of 6.6% in Michigan, Ohio and other states after they passed hands-free laws, according to the research from the Governors Highway Safety Association and Cambridge Mobile Telematics. The study was based on information from phones' sensors that drivers voluntarily shared with their insurance companies in hopes of earning a "good driver" discount. Distracted driving crept up again once the initial buzz about the new policies subsided.


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A daily report co-sponsored by Arizona State University, Criminal Justice Journalists, and the National Criminal Justice Association

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