WASHINGTON—Despite the known risks of distracted driving, it is proving to be a challenge to stop people from talking, sending text messages, and engaging in other distracting actions while behind the wheel, but the US government is trying.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), in 2008 nearly 6,000 people died in crashes involving a distracted driver. Just over 20 percent of all crashes that year involved some type of distraction.
US Department of Transportation (DOT) Secretary Ray LaHood will host the second annual National Distracted Driving Summit in Washington on Sept. 21. Leading transportation officials, safety advocates, law enforcement, researchers, industry experts, and victims affected by distraction-related accidents will gather to discuss the challenges faced in their past anti-distracted driving efforts, and to indentify future opportunities.
“By getting the best minds together, I believe we can figure out how to get people to put down their phones and pay attention to the road,” said DOT Secretary LaHood in a statement.
The first Distracted Driving Summit inspired a wave of actions to curb distracted driving. The Obama administration issued an Executive Order to ban all text messaging by 4 million federal employees while they’re driving government-owned vehicles, any vehicle on official government business, or using government-issued mobile devices while driving.
Several national and state-level campaigns were also enacted.
According to the NHTSA, as of May 13 six states, the District of Columbia and the Virgin Islands banned all drivers from hand-held cell phone use. Twenty-five states, the District of Columbia, and Guam have banned texting.
The three main types of driving distractions are taking your eyes off the road, taking your hands off the wheel, and taking your mind off what you are doing. Common forms of distraction include cell phone use, texting while driving, eating, drinking, talking with passengers, and using in-vehicle technologies and portable electronic devices.
Texting while driving is considered one of the highest-risk activities because it involves all three types of distractions.
Less obvious forms of distractions include daydreaming or dealing with strong emotions.
Distraction.gov, the official US government website on distracted driving, provides information, statistics, campaign resources, and answers to frequently asked questions regarding distracted driving.