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White House To Address Distracted Driving Issue

August 5, 2009

The White House on Tuesday urged for a broader discussion of how to combat the increasing number of accidents involving distracted motorists.

The Obama administration called for a summit to be held in September in order to address public concerns with the dangers of distracted driving.

A study conducted by the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute last week found that truck drivers were 23 times more likely to get into accidents while texting.

The study noted that texting posed a greater risk than talking, dialing or listening to an electronic device, according to Rich Hanowski, director of the transportation institute’s Center for Truck and Bus Safety.

“The public is sick and tired of people being distracted and causing accidents,” said Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood.

“We all know texting while driving is dangerous and we are going to do something about it so that responsible drivers don’t have to worry about it when they or a loved one get on the road.”

LaHood told a news conference on Tuesday that the best option to him would be to ban texting while driving altogether.

The summit will bring together experts from transportation industry, safety advocates, law enforcement officials as well as members of Congress.

The New York Times has cited a poll released by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety last week. The poll found that about 30 percent of drivers said the roads are less safe today than they were five years ago, largely due to “behind-the-wheel multitasking.”

“There are a variety of challenges with distracted driving, and we commend the secretary for leading the effort to address this important highway safety issue,” said Barbara Harsha, executive director of The Governors Highway Safety Association.

Harsha added that the association “is particularly interested in strategies for enforcing texting and cell phone bans as well as technological applications that would limit or eliminate distractions.”

“If it were up to me, I would ban drivers from texting immediately,” said LaHood. “But we’ve learned from our efforts to get people to wear seat belts and to persuade people not to drink and drive that laws aren’t always enough. Often, you need to combine education with enforcement to get results.”

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