Security and Safety

SFMTA launches distracted driving campaign

Posted on November 9, 2017

The distracted driving campaign is funded by an $111,393 grant from the National Safety Council. Photo: San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency
The distracted driving campaign is funded by an $111,393 grant from the National Safety Council. Photo: San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency

The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA) launched a new education and enforcement campaign to address distracted driving in San Francisco. The initiative is in support of city’s Vision Zero goal to eliminate all traffic deaths in the city.

To collect more data about distracted driving and its impact on San Francisco’s communities, the SFMTA is leading a first-of-its-kind campaign to study, enforce, and reduce distracted driving behavior in San Francisco. San Franciscans can now use a new crowdsourcing website to identify locations where they have witnessed distracted driving and would like to see increased enforcement.

According to the California Office of Traffic Safety, talking or texting on a cell phone is the leading cause of driver distraction, and 80 percent of traffic crashes involve some type of driver distraction. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has also found that drivers who text while driving are 23 times more likely to be in a traffic crash, and that the rate of fatal collisions caused by distracted driving is increasing faster than fatalities caused by alcohol and drug use, speeding, and failure to use a seatbelt while driving.

The crowdsourced data will inform the location of six high visibility San Francisco Police Department enforcement events targeting distracted driving in early 2018. The SFMTA and San Francisco Department of Public Health will monitor distracted driving activity at the chosen locations before, during, and after the campaign.

One of the primary issues with collecting data about distracted driving is that it is chronically underreported. This is for a variety of reasons, including a lack of nationwide standardization in police reports, difficulties in being able to determine whether distraction figured into a collision, and an unwillingness of drivers to report distractions.

“High visibility enforcement campaigns have been shown to reduce distracted driving in cities where they have been conducted, so this new campaign provides us with an opportunity to test them in San Francisco,” said San Francisco Police Chief, William Scott. “Additionally, the campaign will enable us to collect data about distracted driving at the local level, where none currently exists. This will help us better understand the true scope of this known and dangerous activity in San Francisco.”

The distracted driving campaign is funded by an $111,393 grant from the National Safety Council. In addition to the crowdsourcing tool, the high visibility enforcement events and the program evaluation efforts, the grant will also enable the SFMTA and partner agencies to conduct statistically significant research into San Franciscans’ attitudes toward distracted driving and understanding of California laws that relate to cell phone usage while driving; develop a marketing campaign focused on distracted driving prevention; and partner with third-party app developers to introduce and/or enhance existing safety features that curb cell phone usage while driving.

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