Continuing to show the growing importance of preventing car accidents that result in personal injury and wrongful death, US Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood held the second annual Distracted Driving Summit in Washington D.C. on September 20th – and had some potentially good news.
The Secretary reported that wrongful deaths resulting from distracted driving car accidents fell by 6 percent in 2009, and cases of personal injury declined by 4 percent.
Much of the credit was given to increasing state and local legislation against the dangerous practice, especially the practice of texting and driving.
In the past 12 months, 12 more states – Delaware, Georgia, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Michigan, Nebraska, Rhode Island, Vermont, Wisconsin and Wyoming – passed laws against the use of hand-held mobile phones while driving, according to the Governors’ Highway Safety Association (GHSA). 30 states in total now have laws in place against texting and driving.
LaHood also announced new regulations targeting drivers transporting hazardous materials, train operators and commercial truck and bus drivers. He also reported that more than 550 U.S. companies have committed to putting polices into effect against employees engaging in distracted driving. Under the new federal law, truck and bus drivers who text while driving commercial vehicles may be subject to civil or criminal penalties of up to $2,750.
“We are taking action on a number of fronts to address the epidemic of distracted driving in America,” LaHood commented. “With the help of the experts, policymakers, and safety advocates we’ve assembled here, we are going to do everything we can to put an end to distracted driving and save lives.”
The government also released 2009 statistics concerning distracted driving and car accidents. According to the numbers, distracted driving caused 5474 wrongful deaths and a personal injury total of 448,000.
The summit brought together leading transportation officials, safety advocates, law enforcement personnel, industry representatives, researchers and the family members of victims in order to study the ongoing challenge of preventing distracted driving tragedies, as well as to look at possible solutions to the growing problem.
“Every time someone takes their focus off the road — even if it’s just for a moment — they put their lives and the lives of others in danger,” added LaHood.
The Transportation Secretary is also suggesting that the tech industry could follow the lead of the cigarette industry and place warning labels on the boxes of mobile phones, urging consumers not to use the devices while behind the wheel.