WASHINGTON – At the conclusion of a two-day summit on distracted driving in Washington, D.C., U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood announced a series of steps that will be put in place to end one of the worst causes of distracted driving – text messaging while driving – beginning with federal employees.
Unbelievable as it may seem, people not only continue to talk on their cell phones while driving despite new laws, they also are typing and reading text messages while driving. This includes people driving federal vehicles, bus drivers and truck drivers.
On Wednesday, Sept. 30, President Obama signed an Executive Order directing federal employees not to engage in text messaging:
- while driving government-owned vehicles
- when using electronic equipment supplied by the government while driving
- or while driving privately-owned vehicles when they’re on official government business.
The order also encourages federal contractors and others doing business with the government to adopt and enforce their own policies banning texting while driving on the job.
“This order sends a very clear signal to the American public that distracted driving is dangerous and unacceptable,” said Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. “I fully expect that all 58,000 DOT employees and contractors will take this order seriously. Let’s show our friends and families that we can resist the temptation to answer the phone, send a message, or allow some other distraction to interfere with our driving.”
Public Service Announcement contest underway
The summit also featured a discussion with the Editor-in-Chief of Seventeen magazine Ann Shoket and three young adults, who explored the dangers of texting and driving. [See video, 25 min. in Windows Media Player, at: http://www.tvworldwide.com/showclip.cfm?id=11558&clip=2]
High school classrooms across the country tuned into the Webcast that included Reggie Shaw, 22 – who killed two people in a car crash caused by texting and driving, and Nicole Meredith, 18, who caused a car crash texting while behind the wheel.
Reggie and Nicole were joined by Natalie Hayford, 17, a teen advocate with the Anoka, Minnesota chapter of Students Against Destructive Decisions (SADD). Natalie works with her school and community to try and educate people her age about the dangers of distracted driving.
Together with the National Organizations for Youth Safety (NOYS) and the National Road Safety Foundation (NRSF), the group announced the Drive for Life PSA Contest.
The contest challenges kids and teens to submit a Public Service Announcement concept for combating distracted or impaired driving.
New laws for truck and school bus drivers
Also on the table are proposals for federal laws that would:
- create permanent restrictions on the use of cell phones and other electronic devices in rail operations,
- ban text messaging altogether and restrict the use of cell phones by truck and interstate bus operators, and
- disqualify school bus drivers convicted of texting while driving from maintaining their commercial driver’s licenses.
Secretary LaHood also called on state and local governments to work with USDOT to pass state and local laws against distracted driving in all types of vehicles, especially school buses.
He urged states and local governments to back up public awareness campaigns with high-visibility enforcement actions.
“Working together, we’re going to make sure that traveling in America is as safe as it can possibly be and I strongly encourage the public to take personal responsibility for their behavior and show a healthy respect for the rules of the road,” LaHood said.
The two-day summit brought together safety experts, researchers, industry representatives, elected officials and members of the public who shared their expertise, experiences and ideas for reducing “distracted driving” behavior and addressed the safety risk posed by this growing problem across all modes of transportation. Individuals from 49 states participated in the summit via the web.
Posted Oct. 1, 2009
Zero Fatalities – stories and videos – http://zerofatalities.com/
Technology and Teen Driving (PDF format) – http://downloads.nsc.org/pdf/7-9500Technology.pdf
On Road-Off Phone – http://info.howcast.com/onroadoffphone
National Safety Council – Teen Driver Site http://www.teendriver.nsc.org/
Video of the Distracted Driving summit – www.dot.gov