Monday, September 20, 2010

Ray LaHood ROCKS!

While Oprah has brought big star power to the Distracted Driving front, and special Distracted Driving shows to her millions of viewers, no one works harder on this issue day-in and day-out than Ray LaHood and his team. They are dedicated and fully focused on making our roads safe. Ray LaHood is the tough love parent we all need to remind us of one simple detail: Distracted Driving is REALLY dangerous.

Tweets show that people think they are "good" at texting and driving.

Ray LaHood understands that our thinking is flawed. No one is good at texting and driving, and he's working hard to find a way through to our logical mind that grasps that concept. Our flawed thinking goes beyond the urge to be connected. How many things do you do on a daily basis where the result is "You could die or get seriously injured?" In general, we tend to shy away from activities that could result in injury, or death. It's part of our human fiber to steer away from danger. But texting and driving has a powerful grip on many.

Ray LaHood and team are rushing at that powerful grip full force. Today is the start of the second Distracted Driving Summit. This time last year, there was a growing awareness of the dangers of texting and driving. A year later, the world understands the dangers thanks to our D.O.T. and the people who have supported the effort to end distracted driving. Let's hope the next year brings us measurable results showing that people are turning their cell phones off and focusing on the road ahead....the safe road ahead.

Below is a D.O.T. update on some of the positive changes we have seen this year.

Cross-posted from National Journal's Transportation Experts blog

This week the Department of Transportation hosts our second national Distracted Driving Summit. This summit brings together transportation experts, safety advocates, law enforcement officials, industry representatives, academic researchers, and distracted driving victims.

And to share the wealth of information the summit promises, we're webcasting it at and blogging about the proceedings live at

Visit the Summit homepage

We're hosting this summit because there is important work to be done. In 2009, as indicated by data I shared with the Orlando Sentinel yesterday, distracted driving-related crashes caused at least 5,500 deaths in the U.S. and upward of 450,000 injuries.

And, because many police departments do not routinely document distraction factors in their crash reporting, I think it's safe to say these numbers are only the tip of the iceberg.

But once you've met the victims and the loved ones left behind by this dangerous behavior, it gets even worse. Because then you understand that we are not talking about numbers, but about lives being broken and people being killed in crashes that are 100% preventable.

Number of Distracted Driving Deaths Unchanged - ABC News
You can watch this video clip from ABC's Good Morning America to see what I mean.

At the summit, panelists will take stock of the progress we've made in our fight to end this deadly epidemic. And we will reassess the challenges and opportunities ahead.

The challenges? Those are probably familiar to most of us. Americans are hooked on multi-tasking. We are. We're hooked on our devices and we can't put them down, even when it means jeopardizing our own safety and the safety of others.

And we have young people texting habitually long before they learn to drive who then can't even imagine turning off their devices when they climb behind the wheel.

But the opportunities are promising. First, we have 30 states that have outlawed texting behind the wheel, and eight of those states have banned all handheld phone use while driving.

We also have seen a tremendous wave of grassroots. People like Kari Galassi and Jodi Brubaker, who began distributing yellow "Get off the phone!" car window signs in their Hinsdale, Illinois, community. Or the group of high school students from Sanford, Florida, who formed Reynolds' Right Hands to raise awareness about distracted driving after their teacher Christy Reynolds was killed last year. Across the nation, we've seen a groundswell of support and advocacy whether in communities and workplaces or on Facebook and Twitter.

In addition to these preventive developments, we can add some encouraging news from the enforcement side of the safety equation.

Our pilot programs with police departments in Syracuse and Hartford are reporting that high-visibility enforcement combined with stepped-up public service announcements has resulted in declines in driver cell phone use of 38% in Syracuse and 56% in Hartford. The data on texting in those cities is even more impressive with texting down 42% in Syracuse and a very promising 68% in Hartford.

I can't emphasize the importance of these results enough because many state legislators have opposed texting and cell phone bans for drivers on the grounds that they can't be enforced. Our ongoing pilot programs may be demonstrating otherwise.

These positive trends are grounds for hope, but they don't mean we can relent. Rather, they tell me that now is the time to leverage this momentum by redoubling our efforts to end this deadly practice and persuade people to take the personal responsibility for safety that comes with a driver's license.

This week, I'm hoping the panelists at our Distracted Driving Summit will help point those efforts in a productive direction.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

States Continue to Ban Texting & Driving

More than half the states, 28 states, have banned texting and driving. In July six additional states will have texting & driving laws. Laws by state can be viewed on the GHSA website. The growing number of laws exist for a is simply not safe for people to drive down the road with their eyes on a cell phone. Too many lives have been impacted, or taken because a motorist thinks they are good at texting & driving. No one is good at it, and the risks are high. A ticket is a small price to pay. Seriously injuring someone, killing someone or ending your life is the real issue. #TweetSafe

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Companies and Individuals will be held liable

Companies and individuals will be held liable if an accident occurs as the result of a driver on company time texting/Tweeting, etc. Follow the link to Glenn Gabe's blog (Glenn Gabe's Blog ) and see the Q&A on this topic with Princeton Lawyer Mike Pisauro.

The answers are specific to NJ law, but the bottom line is that if your company does not implement and enforce safe driving policies, you will be held liable when accidents occur. Additionally, all drivers can be held personally responsible and criminal charges could be asserted.

Be FocusDriven behind the wheel!

And the Pulitzer goes to........

Congratulations to Matt Richtel of The New York Times for winning a Pulitzer for the "Driven to Distraction" series of articles. Matt Richtel's focus on road safety has kept distracted driving issues in front of the readers of The New York Times.

Matt Richtel has also published a book recently called HOOKED.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

What automakers do to help drivers focus on the road?

Guest Blog by Dave McCurdy, President and CEO, Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers @auto_alliance

Automakers go through many steps to make sure that everything they put into a car helps the driver focus on the road. There’s no doubt this is important for every driver. However it’s even more important for younger drivers who have less experience behind the wheel.

Today’s younger generation seems to use more gadgets and devices than ever before. Providing these features through an automobile – so we can control the design and make sure the feature performs in a way that helps drivers keep their “eyes-on-the-road” – is an important way to enhance safety.

From the very first step of designing a feature, whether it’s a navigation system or an in-vehicle phone, or anything else for that matter, auto engineers design and build technologies under comprehensive “driver focus” guidelines the industry developed – and continues to review and update.

Every item designed by an automaker is designing to be used in one, single environment: the driving environment. Compare that with, say, a teenager’s brand new multi-functioning cell phone, which was never designed to be used behind the wheel.

An automaker-designed feature will be built to be operated with just a few, quick glances from the driver. This is one of the things covered in the Auto Alliance’s Driver Focus – Telematics (DF-T) Guidelines, covering 24 different principles that address the design, use and installation of telematics systems, or in-vehicle communications systems. These guidelines all share the same goal: helping drivers focus on the road ahead… after all, safely operating a vehicle is the driver’s primary task.

These DF-T guidelines were developed in the early 2000s and involved the Alliance working with other interest groups including ITS America, the Consumer Electronics Association, the National Safety Council, the Society of Automotive Engineers, AAA and, as observers, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and Transport Canada. After we developed them, we put them into practice… and that was by 2003, years before this became as high-a-profile issue as it’s become.

While many drivers aren’t even aware the guidelines exist, they see the results. One good example is where in the car the built-in navigation screen is located. It’s positioned above other features so it’s close to the driver’s normal line of sight. That way, drivers can continue monitoring the roadway peripherally while quickly glancing at the display when needed.

We’re working to learn even more about how drivers interact with their vehicles. The auto industry is a leader in funding R&D. In fact, in 2008, the global industry spent $86 million on R&D. That innovation is part of what has brought auto transportation to its safest level in history. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s latest numbers show that overall traffic fatalities in 2009 fell to their lowest level since 1954… declining for the 15th straight quarter. That’s a remarkable figure given that other factors have grown so much. Over the past 49 years, the number of licensed drivers has more than doubled and vehicle miles traveled has quadrupled.

We’re proud of the role automakers have had in that success. Initiating things like the DF-T guidelines are part of how we’ve gotten to this point. Allowing drivers, of all experience levels, to focus on the road makes driving safer.

For more information, visit Auto Alliance's website. Follow on Twitter @auto_alliance

DontTwive Comment: Auto manufacturers work diligently to make cars safer on the roads. Ultimately, road safety is in the hands of the driver. We all need to drive responsibly and use car features in a safe manner. Drive safe, #TweetSafe, and be extra alert on the roads.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Dr. David Strayer, The Man Behind Cell Phone Distraction Reseach

Dr. David Strayer and his team of researchers spend hours upon hours studying cell phone distraction behind the wheel in the Applied Cognition Lab at the University of Utah.

If you saw the Oprah show on Distracted Driving, Dr. David Strayer was the man who had the amazing demonstrations of Inattentional Blindness, when your mind effectively erases things in plain sight because it is overloaded with complex tasks (texting & driving, talking on the cell phone & driving.) Take a look at the video below to learn more about Dr. David Strayer's important research.

“98% of the population shows substantial, significant impairments when they try to multitask using a cell phone.” Dr. David Strayer

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Make the Pledge!

In recent weeks, Distracted Driving has gotten major air time due to Oprah's No Phone Zone show. Oprah has millions of viewers and inspires many. She feels so strongly about the dangers of cell phone use in the car, she dedicated an entire show to Distracted Driving, and encouraged people to take the No Phone Zone Pledge. (@Oprah)

Inspired by Oprah, the station director of 11 Alive News (@11AliveNews) in Atlanta, Georgia, moved swiftly to create a safe driving initiative for Atlanta The Great Hang Up. People can print a pledge to not text, email or talk on their phone while driving their car. The station then encourages you to leave your pledge in your car as a reminder. The station has dedicated large chunks of air time to making people aware of the dangers of distracted driving. They captured 30 hours of video people trying to make it through a closed course while talking on the cell phone and driving, or texting and driving. There is no question, the Distracted Drivers they caught on film struggled greatly trying to handle two complex tasks at once. They are also getting personal stories of people who have lost loved ones due to accidents involving cell phones. It would be great to see more news stations across the country follow 11 Alive's lead.

Thank You Oprah! Thank You 11 Alive! Pick a pledge....sign it...and then spread the word. Help end distracted driving.

Distracted Driving = Dangerous Driving