Distracted Driving

Download a sample Distracted Driving Policy and modify it for your parish or school.

There are many distractions that motorists face each day, but few are as pervasive — and dangerous — as mobile communication devices. A number of studies have shown that motorists who talk on handheld or hands-free cellular phones are as impaired as drunken drivers.  

Distracted driving is any activity that could divert a person's attention away from the primary task of driving. All distractions endanger driver, passenger, and bystander safety. These types of distractions include:

  • Texting
  • 
Using a cell phone or smartphone
  • 
Eating and drinking

  • Talking to passengers
  • 
Grooming

  • Reading, including maps

  • Using a navigation system

  • Watching a video

  • Adjusting a radio, CD player or MP3 player

The National Safety Council reports that drivers who use cell phones are four times more likely to be in a crash while using a cell phone. Text messaging, however, is by far the most alarming distraction because it requires visual, manual and cognitive attention from the driver. For this reason, 46 states and the District of Columbia ban text messaging for all drivers.

Cell Phone Use Policy

To help educate your drivers, you may want to institute a distracted driving policy for your parish, school or service agency. Put the policy in writing and ask all those who drive as part of their job or ministry (both staff and volunteers) to read and sign the policy. Some points to consider adding to the policy are:

The state law on cell phone use and texting - because it varies from state-to-state, never assume that your drivers know Massachusetts law.

Some recommend requiring drivers to turn cell phones off before getting behind the wheel, while others feel this is an unrealistic expectation. If your policy does not recommend turning off one’s phone, then insist that drivers follow the law and pull over safely before answering a call.

If going a long distance, require that drivers map out their directions beforehand and ask a co-pilot to read maps and fiddle with the navigation system.

Enumerate the different types of distractions. Cell phone use and texting get a lot of press these days, but the same distractions that existed from the early days of the automobile, like grooming and eating while driving, still exist today. See the sidebar for a list of common distractions.

For more information on distracted driving, including downloadable tool kits, flyers and fact sheets to use at your parish, school or agency, please see the following websites:

http://distraction.gov

http://trafficsafety.org

Massachusetts Law

Ban on all cell phone use (handheld and hands-free) for bus drivers (primary law*)
Ban on all cell phone use (handheld and hands-free) for novice drivers (primary law*)
Ban on texting for all drivers (primary law*)

*A primary law means that an officer can ticket the driver for the offense without any other traffic violation taking place.