There’s a new strategy in the campaign to crack down on distracted drivers: the “designated texter.”
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has launched a public service campaign to encourage drivers to name a designated texter, a passenger who sends and replies to all messages for the driver.
A texting driver is 23 times more likely than a non-texting driver to get into a crash, according to NHTSA. The idea of naming a designated texter is part of the NHTSA’s new “Stop the Texts, Stop the Wrecks” campaign.
Jerry Tucker, a driving instructor with the Oregon Driver Training Institute, says he agrees with drivers having a designated texter. “We have so many bikers in the Portland metro area we have to be extra vigilant and that’s a great reason not to be texting, not to be distracted in any way,” Tucker said.
Chad Schermerhorn says he's helping his son Jacob get ready for the road. He says he taught his 15-year-old the importance of paying attention behind the wheel and suggests stashing the phone in the trunk. All in an effort to put the brakes on texting while driving.
“It’s pretty important to us that they stay focused on learning how to drive a car and not playing on their gadget since they do that all night long anyway,” Schermerhorn said.
The good news is, more teens say they are paying attention to distracted driving. A new study shows four out of five teens say they've spoken up when someone was texting and driving. In most cases, that driver listened and stopped.
“If I’m driving and I need to find directions or ask my parents where they are, I’ll just give my phone to someone in my car and ask them to do it,” Benjamin Davis, a teen driver said.
“If I’m driving with my mom or something, she’ll have me look stuff up on her phone for her,” Maya Lewinsohn, another teen driver said.
“It’s dangerous, people get in crashes, cops see you, you lose your license. If parents catch me, they’ll kill me,” Davis said.
However, the survey also found that many teens don't practice what they preach. Although the majority of teens tell others not to text and drive, 34% of them still participate in the distracting behavior when they drive.
The idea of choosing a designated texter has drawn opposition from at least one major driving-related organization. Lynn Chiotto, a Mothers Against Drunk Driving representative, said it would be better “if we all disconnected our electronic media in the car and just enjoyed each other's company.”
KGW reporter Jacqueline Sit contributed to this report