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Is public shaming the way to decrease texting and driving?

We often make light of the way we are addicted to our phones. Everything needs a Tweet, or to be shared on Instagram. Yet there is something about Tweeting how you text and drive that seems particularly inappropriate.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration thinks so, too. The government agency recently directly Tweeted at people who admitted, sometimes proudly, of texting and driving.

Tweeters receive surprise messages from federal agency

Tweeters who jokingly admitted to the world about texting, eating and other forms of distracted driving got a bit of cold water thrown on their joke. The NHTSA responded to Tweets about texting and driving with direct responses such as "Not funny . . . Put down the phone and #justdrive, please - the world's a better and safer place when you do," and "if you're think you're being cool . . . you're not. Put the phone down and #justdrive, please. It's not worth it."

The NHTSA's twitter feed filled up rather quickly, although some tweeters appreciated the input less than others. In addition to the recent Tweets, the NHTSA is conducting its third advertising campaign aimed at raising awareness of the dangers of distracted driving. The ad campaign is entitled, "U Drive. U Text. U Pay."

Distracted driving remains a problem, despite widespread efforts

For years, the NHTSA and other safety groups have attempted to curb distracted driving. Unfortunately, the behavior is still common. Distracted driving causes thousands of deaths every year, and hundreds of thousands of serious injuries.

There does not seem to be one solution to reigning in distracted driving. Many safety advocates are calling for a change in social norms regarding phone use while driving. A generation ago, it was common for some to think drunk driving was not that dangerous. Now, of course, everyone is aware of the dangers of drunk driving, even if some drivers choose to drive impaired anyway.

Similarly, creating an atmosphere where social norms change may be the best route to reduce distracted driving accidents. Ideally, we will soon be at the point where a Tweeter would not advertise distracted driving anymore than they would proudly claim to the world they regularly drive drunk. Unfortunately, however, it appears that we are not there yet, and motorists will continue to be put at risk from distracted drivers. 

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