Will Hollywood make drivers safer?

Around twenty years ago there was a massive campaign on the behalf of a number of American anti-drink driving charities and the Frank Stanton Director of the School of Public Health’s Center for Health Communication Jay Winsten to make the term ‘designated driver’ more common among the public. They achieved this by appealing to some of the most popular TV shows around at that time such as “Cheers” and “The Cosby Show” to include the phrase during their programmes, and sure enough the plan worked and it became something that most people now use on a regular basis.

Since then, drink-driving across the world has decreased rapidly, however there is now a new problem – drivers becoming distracted while behind the wheel. A number of reports have shown how dangerous it is to use a mobile phone while driving, and it has even been shown that reading or writing a text message distracts drivers for an average of 4.6 seconds, and increases their chance of getting into an accident by 23 times. Discussing the dangers of this, Mr Winsten said: “That’s the equivalent of driving blindfolded the length of a football field at 55 miles an hour. Imagine a texting driver heading toward you in the opposing lane of traffic. The threat comes from a combination of visual and cognitive distraction.”

Drivers can also become distracted while driving by a number of other reasons, such as programming their Sat-Navs or looking over to their children in the back seat, however Mr Winsten believes that turning to Hollywood once more can help stem this growing problem. He said: “People connect to fictional characters, and become engaged in the story lines. A substantial body of research on social learning has demonstrated that the modeling of behavior through entertainment programming can strongly influence social norms and behavior.”

By making the issue of distracted driving something that is mentioned on a daily basis in TV programmes and on films, Mr Winsten hopes that the public will start to think more about their own driving habits. However, many car manufacturers these days are creating more and more technology for vehicles, and if these are blames for drivers’ distraction then the companies may not be too happy. Furthermore, it could lead to car insurance companies increasing their quotes for drivers who own vehicles that have computers or other forms of technology installed.

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