With the holiday season upon us, the American Society of Safety Engineers (ASSE) is urging drivers to prevent tragedy on the roads by putting safety first and to avoid all driver distractions.

ASSE notes that tragedies on the roadways result in the annual deaths of more than 40,000 people, along with injuries to hundreds of thousands more. Moreover, traffic crashes are the number one cause of on-the-job deaths, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.

To address the issue of driver distractions, including the increased use of electronic devices like cell phones, the association's board of directors recently approved a new position statement, titled "The Use of Electronic Devices in Motor Vehicles and Safe Driving Practices." In approving the policy position, ASSE recognized that legislative and regulatory initiatives have helped improve safety on the nation's roadways, such as increasing seatbelt and child safety seat use.

However, ASSE questions whether legislative and regulatory bodies at the local, state and national levels should promulgate rules specifically aimed at the use of electronic devices by a driver in a moving vehicle when national, state and local governmental agencies have statutes and regulations limiting the behaviors of drivers on roadways already on the books.

ASSE suggests examining and rewriting the existing laws, where appropriate, to give government officials more guidance as to what constitutes a hazardous act created by inappropriate actions, which may include the use of electronic devices such as cellular phones.

In addition to encouraging drivers to follow the rules of the road, ASSE also recommends that the private sector increase its promotion of safe driving techniques, including:

  • Evaluating employers' current practices and creating and enforcing written guidelines addressing employee use of electronic devices while driving;

  • Proactive training of employees about appropriate operation of electronic devices;

  • Increased research by the automotive industry and the manufacturers of electronic and other devices that are routinely used in vehicles to improve designs and functions to eliminate driver distractions;

  • Improving driver education, particularly through addressing the hazards of using cell phones while driving.