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Study shows two-thirds of Oregon motorists report distracted driving

ODOT plans campaign to raise awareness of dangers

Pamplin Media Group

Three-quarters of Oregon drivers in a recent survey driving commissioned by the Oregon Department of Transportation and conducted by Southern Oregon University admitted to driving while distracted. Most of those reported being distracted by engagement with a cell phone.

Nearly 1,600 Oregonians participated in the February 2016 survey, and most of them — 84 percent — said they feel uncomfortable riding as a passenger with a driver who is distracted. Yet 44 percent admitted to driving distracted with passengers in their vehicle, while 75 percent of respondents admitted to driving distracted when alone in their vehicles.

“Our goal is nothing short of a change in cultural norms when it comes to distracted driving,” said ODOT Director Matt Garrett. “We are mobilizing all our assets at ODOT, putting together a coalition of partners that will use this study and others to help

us effectively engage, influence and ultimately change the behavior of Oregon drivers.”

Eighty-three percent of respondents agreed that distracted driving incidents are increasing and believe that stronger laws, better use of technology, and increased awareness are keys to helping address the problem.

Specifically, the study revealed that 29 percent of respondents feel there is a need for stronger laws. Currently, the fine for non-hands-free use of a cell phone is $500. The study recommends raising that limit to $1,000. Nearly half believe technology can reduce distraction. Use of technology includes apps that prohibit drivers from using their cell phones while behind the wheel.

ODOT crash data reveals that on average, over the five-year period from 2010 to 2014, a distracted driver crash occurred every 2.5 hours and someone received a conviction for using a cell phone while driving every half-hour. In Oregon, more than 11 people die on average in distracted driving crashes each year, and more than 2,800 are injured.

“It’s actually very difficult to determine if distraction was the primary cause of a crash, because people don’t often admit if they were using their cell phones or otherwise distracted,” said Tom Fuller, ODOT’s Communications Section Manager and sponsor of the study. “It’s likely

the real numbers are far higher.”