WASHINGTON - At the conclusion of the two-day summit on distracted driving in Washington, D.C., U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood announced a series of concrete actions the Obama Administration and the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) are taking to help put an end to distracted driving.
President Obama announced Oct. 1 an Executive Order directing federal employees not to engage in text messaging while driving government-owned vehicles; when using electronic equipment supplied by the government while driving; or while driving privately-owned vehicles when they're on official government business. The order also encourages federal contractors and others doing business with the government to adopt and enforce their own policies banning texting while driving on the job.
"This order sends a very clear signal to the American public that distracted driving is dangerous and unacceptable. It shows that the federal government is leading by example," said LaHood. "I fully expect that all 58,000 DOT employees and contractors will take this order seriously."
LaHood pledged to work with Congress to ensure that the issue of distracted driving is appropriately addressed. He also announced a number of immediate actions the Department is taking to combat distracted driving, including the Department's plan to create three separate rulemakings that would consider:
- Making permanent restrictions on the use of cell phones and other electronic devices in rail operations.
- Banning text messaging altogether, and restrict the use of cell phones by truck and interstate bus operators.
- Disqualifying school bus drivers convicted of texting while driving, from maintaining their commercial driver's licenses.
The Secretary also called on state and local governments to work with USDOT to reduce fatalities and crashes by making distracted driving part of their state highway plans, and by continuing to pass state and local laws against distracted driving in all types of vehicles, especially school buses. He asked states and local governments to back up public awareness campaigns with high-visibility enforcement actions. And he said the Department is establishing an on-line clearinghouse on the risks of distracted driving, aimed especially at young people, which will give them information to help encourage good decisions.
Secretary LaHood also pledged to continue the DOT's research on how to best combat distracted driving. As part of this pledge, the DOT will launch a new demonstration program this year to evaluate techniques that states can use to get the most out of their efforts to end this destructive behavior.
The two-day summit brought together safety experts, researchers, industry representatives, elected officials and members of the public who shared their expertise, experiences and ideas for reducing distracted driving behavior and addressed the safety risk posed by this growing problem across all modes of transportation. Authoritative speakers from around the nation led interactive sessions on a number of key topics including the extent and impact of distracted driving, current research, regulations and best practices. Individuals from 49 states participated in the summit via the web.
Secretary LaHood's video blog on distracted driving is available at www.dot.gov. The full webcast of the summit will also be available later this week on the DOT Web site.