A Harvard University professor who introduced Americans to the concept of designated drivers to deter drunken driving is now taking on the deadly problem of motorists distracted by cellphones and other electronics.
Jay Winsten is consulting with federal and Massachusetts officials to develop a new generation of public awareness messages.
“We wanted to find out why all efforts to date to tackle distracted driving have utterly failed,” Winsten said.
Districted driving killed 3,477 people in 2015, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. The Governors Highway Safety Association recently cited it as contributing to a surge in pedestrian fatalities last year. Just last week, after a crash killed 13 people in Texas, a witness said a pickup driver who collided with a minibus acknowledged he was texting; the crash is being investigated.
It’s not as if Americans aren’t aware of the risks, said Winsten, director of the Center for Health Communication at Harvard’s School of Public Health. It’s just that many drivers, surveys show, are mistakenly confident in their own ability to “multitask and handle the problem,” he added.
Paradoxically, those same drivers fear they’ll be victimized by others who text, email or check social media while driving. It’s bravado like that of tipsy drivers confident they can handle the road after a few drinks even if others cannot, he said.
Faced with a surge in drunken driving fatalities in the 1980s, and similarly ineffective public education efforts to reverse behavior, Winsten and colleagues at the center seized upon a concept pioneered in Scandinavia and built a campaign that quickly entered the American lexicon.
It was simple enough. Friends go out, but one — the designated driver — refrains from alcohol and gets the others home safely.
“It promoted a new social norm, a social expectation that the driver doesn’t drink, Winsten said. “It brought social legitimacy…
Source: Mobile Tech Today