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Harvard dean announces campaign against distracted driving

We frequently discuss distracted driving in this Edwardsville Motor Vehicle Accidents Law Blog. This is because texting, cellphone use and a number of other distractions are causes of a great number of serious or fatal car accidents in Illinois and throughout the country everyday. Despite the widely known critical dangers of distracted driving, many drivers in our area continue to give into distractions every time they get into their cars. The Harvard School of Public Health's associate dean is trying to change that.

The dean, Jay Winsten, spearheaded the designated driver campaign in the 1980s and 1990s, and of course that was a very successful campaign against drunk driving. He now hopes to use some of the same strategies he implemented in that campaign to target distracted driving.

The goal of the campaign, he has explained, is to make it socially unacceptable to email or text behind the wheel, as well as engage in other distractions. This message will be pushed through television shows, online media and movies, according to a news report.

Winsten explained to the Harvard Gazette that research shows entertainment programs can influence social norms, and that is what he hopes to do with this campaign.

It will be interesting to see whether this campaign will succeed in encouraging people to focus only on driving while behind the wheel. Many states have already made texting while driving and cellphone use while driving illegal, but this has not worked to stamp out distracted driving. In fact, studies have shown that many people continue to text and drive despite the risks. Perhaps changing the social norm around this behavior will help keep people safer on the roads.

Source: United Press International, "'Designated driver' campaign model for distracted driving," May 24, 2013

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