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Thursday, January 10, 2013

WVU researchers have received a nearly $200,000 grant to study the impact of laws designed to curb teens’ use of cell-phones while driving.

Sen. Jay Rockefeller, DW.Va, and Sen. Joe Manchin, D- W. Va., announced Wednesday the $182,000 grant from the Department of Health and Human Services’ Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development.

WVU Assistant Professor in the Department of Epidemiology Motao Zhu will serve as the primary researcher. He said that 42 states, and the District of Columbia, have some type of law that restricts cellphone use for drivers under 21 years old. It can range from total bans to texting bans for those under 18.

Punishments and rules on when a citation can be issued vary by state, Zhu said.

Researchers will look at data from three public databases during the study, Zhu said. One is fatality traffic records and another is results from a teen survey about behaviors. The third is a sampling of people assigned to watch traffic and count the instances they see of cellphone use.

The data will be used to determine the effects the new laws have in deterring cell phone use among young drivers, Zhu said.

Starting in July, any driver in West Virginia can be pulled over and cited for using a handheld cellphone.

In announcing the gift, Rockefeller said, “Distracted driving hurts the driver, passengers, and everyone on the road, and we must do everything we can to prevent it. I’m very proud West Virginia University has been awarded this grant, which could have a real impact on current and future efforts to reduce injuries and deaths on the road due to distracted driving.”

Manchin added, “West Virginia University’s research facilities are truly some of the best in this nation and this grant opportunity allows the university to become a leader in studying vehicle safety. I have no doubt that the research team’s thorough examination on cellphone use while driving can impact future laws that will help us make sure our roads we travel on every day are safe.” 

Source:  The Dominion Post