The Governors Highway Safety Association is a nonprofit organization that represents the highway safety offices in U.S. states and territories. One of its key purposes is to conduct studies and make recommendations on ways to improve safety for motorists throughout the United States.
During its recent annual meeting, the GHSA decided to focus on two key areas: distracted driving and drugged driving.
Prior to the meeting, the GHSA’s position on driving and cellphone use was that texting should be banned for all drivers, but that only new drivers and school bus drivers should be totally barred from using electronic devices. The association strengthened that position at the meeting. It now recommends that states prohibit all drivers from using any handheld electronic device while operating a motor vehicle.
The change came after enforcement projects showed that handheld cellphone bans are an effective deterrent against distracted driving. Currently, 39 states have comprehensive bans on texting while driving, but only 10 states and the District of Columbia prohibit all handheld cellphone use.
The GHSA also voiced its support for “zero tolerance” drugged driving laws. Because it can be difficult to prove whether a driver is actively under the influence of drugs, these laws make it a crime to operate a motor vehicle with any trace of an illegal drug in the driver’s system. Right now, 17 states have zero tolerance laws in effect.
The GHSA also wants states to increase the penalties for operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of multiple drugs. In taking this position, it pointed to 2007 data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration showing that over 16 percent of nighttime drivers test positive for drugs.
These positions are just recommendations, and are not binding on states. However, the GHSA is generally seen as an authoritative voice on matters of highway safety and their recommendations carry great weight with state lawmakers.
Source: The Trucker, “GHSA strengthens policies on distracted, drugged driving,” Sept. 6, 2012.
To learn more about the consequences of distracted and drugged driving, please visit our car accidents page.