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Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood Kicks Off Historic Summit to Tackle Dangers of Distracted Driving

American Government Special Collections Reference Desk

American Government Topics:  Ray LaHood

Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood Kicks Off Historic Summit to Tackle Dangers of Distracted Driving

U.S. Department of Transportation
September 30, 2009

DOT 155-09
Wednesday, September 30, 2009
Contact: USDOT Public Affairs
Tel: 202-366-4570

New Research Finds Increase in Use of Hand-Held Devices Among All Drivers

WASHINGTON - Leading the call for a cultural shift in how Americans view safe driving, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood today challenged over 250 safety experts, industry representatives, elected officials and members of the public to help put an end to distracted driving. The Secretary's call to action kicked off a two-day Distracted Driving Summit in Washington, DC that will highlight the under-recognized dangers of distracted behavior behind the wheel.

“Every single time someone takes their eyes or their focus off the road - even for just a few seconds - they put their lives and the lives of others in danger,” said Secretary LaHood. “Distracted driving is unsafe, irresponsible and in a split second, its consequences can be devastating.”

Secretary LaHood today announced new research findings by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) that show nearly 6,000 people died in 2008 in crashes involving a distracted or inattentive driver, and more than half a million were injured. On any given day in 2008, more than 800,000 vehicles were driven by someone using a hand-held cell phone.

Across the board, federal researchers who have directly observed drivers of all ages found that more and more people are using a variety of hand-held devices while driving – not just cell phones, but also iPods, video games, Blackberrys and GPS systems. In particular, cell phone use for talking and texting is now more prevalent on our nation's roads, rail systems and waterways, carrying a dangerous potential for accidents.

Cell phones and texting are now the primary means of communication for many people, especially young adults. NHTSA’s research shows that the worst offenders are the youngest drivers: men and women under 20 years of age.

“We now know that the worst offenders are the youngest, least experienced drivers,” said Secretary LaHood. “Unfortunately though, the problem doesn't end there. Distracted driving occurs across all age groups and all modes of transportation, from cars to buses and trucks to trains. We must work together to find solutions that will prevent crashes caused by driver distraction.”

To further study how cell phone distraction affects commercial truck and motor coach drivers, Secretary LaHood also announced a new study the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) is undertaking this month through June 2010. The study will help FMCSA better understand the prevalence of cell phone distraction in conjunction with crashes and near-crashes.

The two-day Summit has brought together safety experts, researchers, industry representatives, elected officials and members of the public to share their expertise, experiences and ideas for reducing distracted driving behavior and addressing the safety risk posed by the growing problem across all modes of transportation.

Authoritative speakers from around the nation have been invited to lead interactive sessions on a number of key topics including the extent and impact of distracted driving, current research, regulations and best practices. At the summit’s conclusion, Secretary LaHood will announce concrete steps the Department is taking to combat this problem.

To watch Secretary LaHood’s video blog on distracted driving or the Distracted Driving Summit live via webcast go to www.dot.gov.

Examination of Driver Distraction as Recorded in NHTSA Databases Click Here to Read the Entire Research Note (DOT-HS-811-216)

Driver Electronic Device Use in 2008 (NOPUS) Research Note Click Here to Read the entire Research Note (DOT-HS-811-184)

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