NHTSA offers $17.5 million in grants to states with distracted driving laws

National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) announced a new grant program that will award approximately $17.5 million in fiscal year 2013 to states that have laws banning distracted driving.

NHTSA estimates that at least 3,092 people were killed and an additional 416,000 others were injured in distraction-affected crashes in 2010, including crashes involving texting or other cell phone use.

Distracted driving is a persistent and growing epidemic on America’s roads — but there has also been incredible momentum in the states in recent years to pass laws that tackle the problem head on,” said Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. “This new grant program will provide states that have distracted driving laws with important resources to help save lives and prevent injuries.”

To qualify, a state must have a comprehensive, primary law against distracted driving or a primary law prohibiting texting while driving, which allows law enforcement personnel to stop violators solely for distracted driving. States with secondary laws, which require law enforcement to observe a primary offense prior to enforcing the distraction law, would not be eligible.

Under the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act (MAP-21), Congress has also authorized an additional $5 million for NHTSA to develop paid advertising to support state enforcement of laws against distracted driving.

“Whether the issue is distracted driving, drunk driving, seat belt use, or another safety concern, we count on our law enforcement partners in the states to help reduce the tragic toll of traffic deaths and injuries on our roadways,” said NHTSA Administrator David Strickland. “These funds will allow us to build on the success we've seen in past campaigns that combined tough laws, strong enforcement, and ongoing public awareness efforts.”

Upon publication in the Federal Register, states will have 45 days to apply for the new grants following the procedures provided in the notice.

The grant announcement coincides with the release of new distracted driving public service announcements (PSAs) aimed at young adults featuring scenes from FOX's award-winning television series “Glee.” The PSAs, which are being released through NHTSA, the Ad Council, Fox Home Entertainment, and the State Attorneys General and Consumer Protection Agencies, are part of the national "Stop the Texts. Stop the Wrecks.” campaign that launched in October 2011 to educate young drivers about the dangers of texting behind the wheel.

“Distracted driving is an epidemic on our roadways, and our youngest and most inexperienced drivers are often the most at risk,” said LaHood. “Young people across the country watch ‘Glee,’ and we’re thrilled to partner with the show to spread the word that texting and driving don't mix. I thank the Ad Council, Ryan Murphy, and the cast of ‘Glee’ for their continued efforts to raise awareness about this issue.”

In the new television and digital PSAs produced by Fox Home Entertainment, Dianna Agron’s character, Quinn Fabray, crashes her car as the direct result of texting while driving. The PSAs emphasize that reading a text message behind the wheel can take your eyes off the road for an average of five seconds – enough time to drive the length of a football field. Viewers can visit Distraction.gov and StopTextsStopWrecks.org to learn more about distracted driving and get tips on how to curb texting behind the wheel.

“This was a story we wanted to tell because we know the influence our show can have in starting conversations and raising awareness,” commented “Glee” executive producer and co-creator Ryan Murphy. “We were inspired by Oprah Winfrey’s campaign encouraging everyone to sign a pledge not to text and drive, which we all signed when we did her show a few years ago, and we had been looking for an opportunity to tell the story of how a few seconds of carelessness could have a devastating impact on people’s lives. We’ve already heard from thousands of our fans how this story touched them, and we loved the idea of a PSA campaign to keep this important issue front and center.”

For more than 25 years, NHTSA and the Ad Council have worked together on consumer safety PSA campaigns. The “Stop the Texts. Stop the Wrecks.” effort has received more than $20 million in donated media support to date. All of the new PSAs will run and air in advertising time and space that is donated by the media.

“Texting behind the wheel is a serious danger to both the driver and everyone else on the road,” said Peggy Conlon, president & CEO of the Ad Council. “Thanks to the commitment of Fox Entertainment and 'Glee' and the persistence of our safety partners and advocates, we will continue working to reduce driver distraction, prevent injuries, and save lives.”

For more information and to view the PSAs, please visit www.Distraction.gov or www.StopTextsStopWrecks.org.

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