A “Menace To Society” says Distracted Driving Summit
President Obama signed an executive order Wednesday night that bans federal employees from texting and driving while on government business or while using cell phones paid for by the government.
The order comes at the end of a two-day summit on Distracted Driving that was aimed at sending “ a very clear signal to the American public that distracted driving is dangerous and unacceptable,” said Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood.
The premise of the summit -that distracted driving is a menace to society - gathered safety experts, researchers, industry representatives, close to 300 academics, policy makers and members of the public who have had family members killed by distracted drivers.
Dave Teater, of the National Safety Council’s campaign against distracted driving was there. His 12-year-old son, Joseph was killed after a woman driving a Hummer and engaged in a cell phone conversation ran a red light in Grand Rapids, Michigan in 2004.
Jennifer Smith was there too. Her 61-year-old mother died in a car accident when the 20-year-old driver of the other phone was talking on his cell phone.
Truckers Can Wait
While the executive order goes into effect immediately and covers 4.5 million federal employees and military personnel, the rules do not go into effect immediately for everyone. Interstate truck drivers and bus drivers will await further instructions on what exactly constitutes “text messaging” in their cab.
IB News recently reported on the plethora of electronic devices that now fill a truck cab. One driver told the New York Times he was on one or another 90 percent of the time.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) that regulates the trucking industry, will try to work with drivers so they can still stay in touch with dispatchers and get work orders and check in regularly.
Rose McMurray, with the FMCSA, tells the New York Times it could take up to 18 month or longer to finalize rules concerning buses and trucks.
The industry estimates every minute a truck is idle translates into $1.50 cost. McMurray believes the ban could include manipulating a keyboard or taking eyes off the road.
Some felt that an emphasis on texting missed the bigger picture of distracted driving in general.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) finds that 16 percent of U.S. driver deaths may be due to distracted driving, reports ABC News. That is close to 5,900 people in 2008 and up from an estimated 11 percent in 2005, reports Bloomberg.
Texting is just one of many activities people are undertaking while driving, Add iPods, video games, Blackberrys and GPS systems. Portable electronic communication is the primary means of communication among young adults.
NHTSA says that the worst offenders are young drivers: men and women under the age of 20.
The Ford Motor Company supports a texting ban but doesn’t want to prohibit voice-activated technology for cars.
The National Conference of State Legislatures says seven states and the District of Columbia ban the use of hand-held phones while driving and 14 states ban texting. New bans will go into effect in four other states January 1.
Legislation proposed to withhold one quarter of federal highway dollars from states that fail to ban texting while driving, might ultimately prove the push to get more onboard. #