U.S. to Hold Distracted Driving Summit

August 5, 2009

U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood announced a September summit to address the dangers of text-messaging and other distractions behind the wheel.

In late September, senior transportation officials, elected officials, safety advocates, law enforcement representatives and academics will convene in Washington, D.C. to discuss ideas about how to combat distracted driving.

“If it were up to me, I would ban drivers from texting, but unfortunately, laws aren’t always enough,” said LaHood. “We’ve learned from past safety awareness campaigns that it takes a coordinated strategy combining education and enforcement to get results. That’s why this meeting with experienced officials, experts and law enforcement will be such a crucial first step in our efforts to put an end to distracted driving.”

The summit announcement comes just weeks after reports that the federal government withheld data on the danger of distracted driving it collected in 2003.

A number of deadly accidents involving text messaging behind the wheel have called attention to the problem of distracted driving. Last year, a commuter train crash in California involving an operator who was texting on a cell phone killed 25 people and injured 135 others. In another incident, a Florida truck driver admitted to texting moments before a collision with a school bus that killed a student. In yet another, only a few weeks ago, a 17-year-old high school student from Peoria, Illinois was killed when she drove off the road while texting with friends.

LaHood said that he plans to announce a list of steps his agency will take to make drivers think twice about taking their eyes off the road for any reason.

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