NHTSA develops proposed guideline for states to address distracted and drowsy driving

Public can comment through September 22

Posted August 25, 2016

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is seeking comments on a new guideline for distracted and drowsy driving. NHTSA believes the new guideline will provide more accurate, current, and effective guidance to the states regarding distracted and drowsy driving. NHTSA develops guidelines to offer direction to states in formulating their highway safety programs.

NHTSA developed the new guideline to address the growing problems associated with distracted and drowsy driving. The agency says the new guideline will help states develop plans to address distracted and drowsy driving.

According to NHTSA, in 2014, ten percent of fatal crashes, 18 percent of injury crashes, and 16 percent of all police-reported motor vehicle traffic crashes were reported as distraction-affected crashes. These proportions have remained stable over the past five years of reported data.

Proposed guideline

The guideline covers several areas including program management, law enforcement, and legislation, regulation, and policy. The legislation, regulation, and policy portion reads as follows.

Each state should enforce all traffic laws and regulations, including any with a focus on distracted and drowsy driving. States should work with other state agencies and private sector partners to establish policies directed at:

  • Prohibiting the use of wireless/electronic communication devices while driving on work-related business, whether in company or personal vehicles; and
  • Preventing drowsy driving while on work-related business, whether in company or personal vehicles. States should work with relevant employers to provide strategies to assist with scheduling shift changes that provide for improved sleep.

With respect to distracted driving, each state should enact and enforce laws prohibiting the use of wireless/electronic communications devices while driving. At a minimum, the law should:

  • Prohibit a driver from using (e.g., talking, dialing, browsing, texting) a wireless/electronic communications device while driving;
  • Make the violation a primary offense;
  • Establish a minimum fine for a violation of the law; and
  • Prohibit a driver from texting through a wireless/electronic communications device while stopped in an active traffic lane.

With respect to drowsy driving, in the absence of specific legislation, states may be able to use existing statutes addressing violations such as reckless driving, lane changes, and weaving to identify drowsy drivers and cite, as appropriate. States should enact and enforce laws prohibiting drowsy driving.

The entire proposed guideline is available for review in the August 23 issue of the Federal Register.

Comments must be received on or before September 22, 2016. You may submit comments to identified by docket number 2016-20165 to the Federal eRulemaking Portal.

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