Blog | Behavior Change

[Video] Road Safety in the Digital Age: The Impact of Phone-based Distraction

Webinar Series Recap
January 20, 2021

Road Safety in the Digital Age: The Impact of Phone-based Distraction from Cambridge Mobile Telematics on Vimeo.

In its latest report, CMT concludes that phone-based distracted driving can be eliminated if four individual initiatives can unite: public education, strong laws and law enforcement, and public-private partnerships.

In order to discuss these efforts and how they might best collaborate and tackle phone-use behind the wheel moving forward, CMT hosted a virtual webinar featuring Emily Stein, President of the Safe Roads Alliance, Jay Winsten, Ph.D., Director of Strategic Media Initiatives at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, and Joel Feldman, Founder of End Distracted

Dr. Winsten opens the panel by detailing the unified effort it took to significantly reduce drunk driving incidents in the 1980s. Successful public awareness campaigns, like Mothers Against Drunk Driving, helped change the public perception that driving while intoxicated wasn’t a mistake but an actual crime. This, coupled with state-by-state crack downs and public-private partnerships in Hollywood, where shows like Friends featured designated drivers, heavily influenced the determent. While Winsten was responsible for the Hollywood campaign, he notes “media is just one piece of the distracted driving puzzle. We need policy, and technology – like CMT’s technology – is necessary for us to take on this problem.” He also notes, these initiatives take time – “it took 12 years for drunk driving to decrease.”

With phone-based distraction on the rise (and national authorities lacking the technology to track this trend accurately), CMT exists as a private partner with historical success in partnering with government organizations to positively affect bad driving behaviors. Read more about CMT’s Safe Driving Contests here.

Stein and Feldman, founders of their own organizations dedicated to combating phone-based distraction, are also uniting to begin education off the road, and much earlier.

Stein says she studied other public health cessation programs: “If you look at anti-smoking campaigns, if you look at recycling campaigns, often the message started at school with younger kids who were then tasked with bringing it home and talking to their parents about it.”

Kids Speaking Up for Road Safety provides facilitator guides, lesson plans, videos, and workshops for elementary school children to ensure safer driving habits start in the driveway of the home. The program “empowers children in the backseat to speak up to their adult driver in a very respectful but effective way.”