As I have written on several previous occasions, distracted driving here in Oregon and around the country is not exclusively a teen problem – but it is also important to acknowledge that it is an issue of particular relevance to teens and other young drivers.
The latest attempt to reach that audience and impress the importance of this issue on them comes from, of all places, CalTrans, California’s state transportation agency. According to a recent Tech Wire story, reprinted by the newsletter Government Technology, the agency “has launched a mobile app and online game designed to teach teenagers the importance of safe driving habits and avoiding distracted driving while on the road.” The app is currently available for free in the Google Play store, the publication reports (there is no mention of an iOS version at this point).
According to Government Technology the app and game “puts the player in the driver’s seat and challenges them to obey the speed limit in a virtual car while slowing down in highway work zones and avoiding phone calls and other potential distractions… CalTrans seems aware of the potential mixed message of releasing a game app, and says the game should not be played while driving.” If that last point seems a little obvious the fact that the agency felt compelled to make it is also evidence of how deep the distracted driving problem runs, especially among teens.
As the article notes, data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration indicates that “among drivers 15 to 19 years old who were distracted in fatal crashes, nearly 1 in 5 were distracted by their phones.” The numbers are for 2012, the most recent year for which full data is available.
As a Portland distracted driving lawyer I welcome this latest effort to raise awareness of the issue of phones, texting and other things that pull a driver’s attention away from the road. Oregon and many other states have laws to ban or limit distracted driving, but as we have all seen for decades with seat belts such laws require regular reinforcement. Distracted driving is a problem that is probably here to stay. Because of that, new and innovative efforts to stop it are always welcome.
Government Technology: Caltrans Distracted Driving Game App Promotes Safe Habits