Social norm change needed to curb distracted driving

Photo by Sadie Colbert/USAF

2 min read

Drivers who take their eyes off the road to use a wireless device, or indulge another distraction such as eating or putting on makeup, cause almost 3,500 deaths and 400,000 injuries a year, but they tend to get off with light sentences. According to Jay Winsten, director of Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health’s Center for Health Communication, combating distracted driving is challenging because there is no social stigma attached to it.

In a Feb. 6, 2018 article on the website FairWarning, Winsten said that people often respond to learning that he’s working on a campaign against distracted driving by joking about their own transgressions. But Winsten, who helped popularize the Designated Driver concept in the 1980s, noted that people used to have similarly lax attitudes about drunk driving.

Winning tougher sanctions will require legislators, judges, and juries to examine their own distracted driving behavior, he said.

Read FairWarning article: What Happens When a Driver Kills Someone While Fiddling With A Cellphone? Often, Not Much

Learn more

Curbing distracted driving with “situational awareness” (Harvard Chan School news)

Despite more regulations, texting while driving remains a growing safety concern (Harvard Chan School news)

Putting the brakes on distracted driving (Harvard Chan School news)

Preventing Deadly Distracted Driving (Harvard Chan School Forum video)