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Should there be a national standard for distracted driving?


Distracted driving continues to be a major problem in America, so why isn’t there a national standard for what’s legal and what’s not?

RELATED: Should Washington require a test for out-of-state drivers?

Nearly 3,500 people died nationwide in distracted driving accidents in 2016, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Yet there is no uniform rule against distracted driving that covers all 50 states. Each state has its own variation of the law. Most do not allow texting while at the wheel. Arizona has no statewide ban on texting, but cities can prohibit it. Mississippi only prevents new drivers from texting. Some states allow taking phone calls. Some allow you to have the phone in your hand. Others, like Washington, do not.

Heidi King is the deputy administrator for the safety administration. She said it’s up to the states to make their own rules.

“Whether or not national rules would help, it’s still up to the individual driver to make a good, make a safe decision when operating their car,” she said.  “Vehicle operation by individual drivers is regulated at the state level, not nationally.”

All 50 states found a way to agree on 0.08 as the threshold for drunk driving. Maybe it’s time to get all the states together to come up with uniform rules and penalties so you know the playing field no matter which state you’re in.

For example, you’re texting while driving on I-10 heading from Tuscon, Arizona, to Los Cruces, New Mexico. It’s legal as you leave Arizona, but illegal as you enter New Mexico.

Distracted driving can be a choice

Look to your left or your right, and you’ll probably see someone violating the law. King said until driver’s change their behaviors nothing is going to change.

“We recognize the risks as a nation, and we’re trying different tools but it’s still a problem,” she said.  “Ultimately, drivers making human decisions, some of which are bad, are creating risks on our roadways, and we need to make sure we have more responsible drivers overall.”

I also asked King about center consoles and whether they should be tweaked to prevent distractions inside cars. AAA released a study last year that showed they can be incredibly distracting, and they can take your eyes off the road for extended periods of time, especially when adjusting the navigation. I find it more distracting to use my center console than I ever did using a phone. King said her agency is looking at this.

“Many of these consoles have a lot of options, but the manufacturers are designing systems that will be simpler to interface so that the driver can concentrate on what’s important, which is looking out for obstructions and other driver’s behavior,” King said.

What do you find more distracting, you phone or your console? Do you think we need a national standard for distracted driving? Leave your comments below.

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