Research by Donald Fisher, head of the Mechanical and Industrial Engineering Department and director of the Arbella Human Performance Laboratory, is cited by editorials in the Salem News and Newburyport Daily News calling for stricter monitoring and ticketing of drivers who text while behind the wheel. As one editorial is headlined, “Tough Enforcement is needed against texters and other erratic drivers.” The editorial notes that “Research using driving simulators by Donald Fisher of the University of Massachusetts Amherst backs up police observations about the threat posed by texting behind the wheel. He found drivers are 23 times more likely to get into an accident while texting — compared to only three or four times more likely for drivers who are legally drunk.”
Nationally, 24 percent of all crashes are reported to be related to the use of handheld devices of one kind or another, while distracted driving, including texting while driving, is blamed for 3,000 deaths and 400,000 injuries annually.
Massachusetts is one of two states chosen for a pilot program paid for by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. The pilot program is designed not only to enforce a state’s law against texting while driving but also to develop enforcement methods that can be applied across the country in other states with anti-texting laws — at this point, there are 41 of them. (June 2013)