Friday, January 1, 2010

Obama Administration Sends Strong Message Against Texting While Driving

24/7 - President Obama's administration is taking aggressive steps to curb dangerous distracted driving, especially texting at the wheel. In the spectrum of activities that can sidetrack a driver while driving, texting is particularly worrisome because it requires the combined use of eyes, hands and thought. The administration is actively responding to a concerned public, alarming scientific findings and troubling statistics.

The Virginia Tech Study

In July, the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute (VTTI) -- based on sophisticated monitoring of over six million actual driving miles -- released the results of comprehensive studies on cell-phone impact on driving distraction. The study found texting the most dangerous of cell phone activities. In a heavy truck, text messaging while driving increased the risk of a crash or near-crash event by staggering 23.2 times.

Logically, texting takes a driver's eyes off the road for much longer stretches than listening or talking on a mobile phone. VTTI reported that texting at 55 mph can take a driver's eyes off the road for the length of a football field. Based on its findings, the VTTI recommends a total ban on texting in all types of moving vehicles and a prohibition on all types of cell phone use by inexperienced drivers.

The Distracted Driving Summit

The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) hosted a two-day high-profile national conference in September that brought together 250 national experts from industry, science and government to put a microscope to the problem of distracted driving and to raise public awareness of the severity of the problem. In conjunction, DOT Secretary Ray LaHood revealed new National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) statistics that in 2008 almost 6,000 people were killed and over 500,000 injured in distracted-driving crashes.

Secretary LaHood also announced that the administration will work to ban texting by truckers, train operators and bus drivers -- both school and interstate.

The Executive Order

President Obama underscored his commitment to fighting distracted drivers when at the conclusion of the conference on October 1 he signed an Executive Order 13513, which prohibits millions of federal employees from texting while driving when using government equipment or conducting official business.

Congressional Action

Two major bills were recently introduced in Congress and are being studied in committee -- the Avoiding Life-Endangering and Reckless Texting by Drivers Act of 2009 (ALERT Drivers Act) and the Distracted Driving Prevention Act of 2009. The bills would, respectively, require DOT to withhold 25 percent of federal highway funding from any state that did not ban texting while driving and give a monetary grant to a state that bans texting and other cell-phone use.

Cautious Optimism

Safety advocates are watching developments in our nation's capital with keen interest. Just as firmer government regulation of drunk driving, seat-belt and motorcycle-helmet use started at the grass roots, it appears that the federal government is poised to take meaningful action to curb death and injury caused by drivers distracted by texting.

Article provided by The McClellan Law Firm

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