October 27, 2009

Safe Roads Alliance Partners With Auto Insurance Provider To Reduce Cell Phone Use While Driving

The auto insurance provider Safety Insurance has announced that it is teaming up with the organization Safe Roads Alliance in an effort to encourage drivers to hang up their cell phones while driving. By teaming up with them, the two companies will instigate the Bucks for Hang-Ups’ campaign. Through this program, volunteers will be posted at busy intersections in towns and cities in eastern Massachusetts. When they see drivers who are stopped at traffic lights or stop signs and are texting or talking on their cell phones, the volunteers will approach them and offer them each a dollar in exchange for hanging up.

The Safe Roads Alliance is a nonprofit organization founded in 2007 for the purpose of educating drivers and promoting safe driving habits. They offer educational presentations to high school students and their parents about emergency driving skills. They also target outreach towards groups such as seniors, educating them about the unique issues that they face as drivers. Safe Roads Alliance aims to raise awareness about a range of issues affecting vehicle safety, from vehicle maintenance to proper use of seat belts and child seats. Safety Insurance is one of the largest auto insurance providers in the state of Massachusetts, offering a range of products and consistently receiving positive ratings from reviewers.

The groups’ combined effort to encourage drivers to hang up their cell phones targets a hazardous, yet commonplace, activity. Drivers talking on cell phones are more likely to be involved in accidents than drivers whose blood-alcohol content exceeds the legal limit. Each year in the United States, 2,600 people die as a result of cell phone-related distraction. An additional 330,000 are injured. According to the 2005 National Occupant Protection Use Survey, at any given moment during daylight hours, there are likely to be 974,000 drivers talking on cell phones while driving their cars.

It is unlikely that a $1 incentive in itself will cause many drivers to permanently change their driving behavior and cell phone use. Critics might argue drivers could pocket the money and resume their conversations as soon as they pull away from the intersection. Although this could certainly be the case for some of the people who accept the money, it is also possible that drivers will take the opportunity to reflect on their habits and ultimately change their behavior. For many cell phone users, talking while driving has become a matter of habit, and they barely think about the fact that they are doing it. One can only hope that the sheer strangeness of the experience can provide some impetus for drivers to hang up and refrain from answering the next call.