"Too many of us think it is OK to talk on our phones while we are driving."
Wayne Gerdes - CleanMPG
- April 27, 2012
On September 23, 2008, 13-year-old Margay Schee was riding home from school when a semi-truck slammed into the back of her school bus. She was killed when rescuers were unable to get her out of the burning wreckage. The truck driver was talking on his cell phone at the time of crash and said “he never saw the bus
” that was right in front of him.
National Distracted Driving Awareness month is drawing to a close, but safety experts from around the country are making sure the conversation continues.
Yesterday, the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) joined other traffic safety partners to participate in the first Texas Distracted Driving Summit in San Antonio. USAA presented the event, in association with TxDOT and Shriners Hospitals for Children.
More than 200 participants including physicians, businesses and policy makers were in attendance and have pledged to be a part of the effort to curb distracted driving. A key participant, the Insurance Council of Texas, plans to facilitate a meeting of summit participants to review lessons learned as well as discuss future plans to reduce distracted driving in Texas.
At today's summit, experts and advocates against distracted driving were sharing experiences, insights and knowledge to keep the consequences of distracted driving in the national conversation.
Ray LaHood, U.S. Transportation Secretary, called for a federal law banning talking on a cell phone or texting while driving any type of vehicle on any road in the country
U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood:
"Today's Texas Distracted Driving Summit is a reminder of how far we have come in just the last three years in combating America's distracted driving epidemic—and how far we still have to go. I am grateful to all of the advocates who are working tirelessly here in Texas to remind drivers to keep their eyes on the road, their hands on the wheel and their focus on driving.
Tough federal legislation is the only way to deal with a "national epidemic."
LaHood said his department was researching the effect that new systems like Ford's Sync has on distracting drivers. He has called the CEOs of the major car companies and encouraged them to "think twice
" before placing too many Internet-based systems into their latest new cars.
LaHood who has made headlines criticizing behind-the-wheel use of cell phones and other devices in the past hinted at a nationwide law banning the practice. His statements today were far more direct with an intent to move legislation forward.
Victims' families were on hand sharing personal stories, academics were discussing the science and research behind the behavior; and physicians were weighing in on the traumatic injuries distracted driving crashes cause. Also, summit attendees were discussing broader aspects of distracted driving, such as how corporations can help address the issue of distracted driving through their own policies. Further, one presentation takes a unique perspective on distracted driving, highlighting the fact that some populations, such as some veterans post-deployment, may be dealing with unique distractions on our roadways.
One of the attendees, Jennifer Smith, who has advocated against distracted driving since her mother was killed by someone talking on his cell phone while driving in 2008:
"The tremendous interest in today's event is proof the people of Texas are committed to putting an end to the state's distracted driving epidemic. Too many families have lost loved ones in 100 percent preventable crashes, and we are going to take the momentum from today's summit to chart a path forward to keep the roadways of Texas safe from further distracted driving crashes."
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), approximately 3,000 or almost 10% of all fatal accidents on US roadways were the direct result of distracted driving.
Findings from the first nationally-representative telephone survey on driver distraction conducted by DOT's National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reported earlier this month show that younger drivers age 18 to 20 years old report the highest level of phone involvement in crash or near-crash incidences. These young drivers are nearly three times as likely to report having been reading or sending a text or e-mail when such an incident occurred as compared to driver’s age 25 and higher. In addition, drivers younger than 25 are two to three times more likely to drive while sending or reading a text message or email. Reports of texting while driving drop sharply as age increases.
Even in Texas, where state legislatures and governors have not yet enacted texting and hand-held cell phone bans, safety organizations and the states DOT is doing their best to educate drivers this month. The Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) is encouraging drivers to refrain from engaging in non-driving activities while on the road, particularly cell phone use and texting. In its second year, TxDOT's Talk. Text. Crash. outreach campaign is designed to raise awareness of the horrible consequences of distracted driving.
TxDOT who was presenting claims that at least 81,000 Texas crashes last year involved some type of distraction or driver inattention with 361 of these crashes resulting in fatalities.
The Distracted Driving Summit is certainly keeping the conversation in the national spotlight. But is it keeping it within the confines of the PC monitor vs. being read about on a Smartphone by someone speeding down the road in a 3,300 pound missile at 60 mph?