Feds Call for Distracted Driving Summit: It’s About Time!

August 5th, 2009

Distracted Driving Scare AdYesterday, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood called for a September summit to investigate the dangers of texting and other deviant behavior while driving.

People in America got fed up with their children and loved ones being killed by drunk drivers. And people in America are very tired of the idea that people can text and drive and use cellphones and drive in some states.

If it were up to me, I would ban drivers from texting, but unfortunately, laws aren’t always enough. 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.

[Quotes from The New York Times and a DOT news release.]

The Secretary’s message implies, and state efforts demonstrate, the great difficulty of enforcement. We’ve seen the same thing with seat-belt and drunk-driving laws, and many of us remember how long these measures took to take hold.

We’ve seen a recent slew of articles and news reports about cell phones and other distractions (including ours, here and here). But the issue goes back several years and has always been bubbling on the back of the stove.

Sixteen states, including California, and Washington, DC, have passed laws prohibiting texting while driving, but that’s not the only problem by a long shot. The LA Times reports that “Earlier this year, a 56-year-old Illinois woman on a motorcycle was struck and killed by a woman who was applying nail polish while driving.”

We leave you with one more instance of impossible behavior posted two years ago:

Mark Stevens is a multitasking maniac. A couple of months ago, the White Plains, New York, marketing consultant was working his cell phone with one hand and his Blackberry with the other while trying to steer his Mercedes SL500 with his wrists and knees—when he plowed it into a rental vehicle in an Enterprise parking lot. That followed his fourth ticket in four years for talking on his cell phone while driving.

“If you are a determined multitasker, it’s an addiction—and you can’t stop it,” said the 59-year-old Stevens.

Talk about distracted driving. Even during a short trek, he said, he’s likely to sip a Diet Coke and a bottled water, eat a sandwich, read a copy of The Economist, write notes to himself and listen to NPR, in addition to performing his cell phone and Blackberry action—oh, and driving. “I’m a driven person, and that’s why I do all this stuff while I drive.”

Driven person? Mark Stevens should be driven to jail. This stuff would be funny if it weren’t so tragic. Ray LaHood is moving in the right direction.

Do you have any stories of distracted driving—either your own or someone else’s? Do you think the DOT summit will do any good?

—jgoods

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  1. Mike
    | #1

    I noticed a far amount of company owned vehicles have these 1800 hows my driving bumper stickers. Isn’t this helping prevoke dangerous driving? Even if they don’t grab there cell phone to call, grabbing a pen and writing down the number to call later is ju st as dangerous. I just find it ironic these companies with the bumber stickers is suppose to help removing dangerous driving when its actually worsening the sitution. Just my 2 cents. I think Ray LaHood should put ban on these stickers as well.

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