Distracted Driving Forum: Boon or Bane?



It’s one thing to call a meeting to talk about a problem, or claim you know what’s going on, and another to actually do something about it. This is what sets apart true leaders from the pretenders in society. After threatening to take away highway funding to those states that do not implement a ban on texting while driving, a “summit” has been called by Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood to discuss the problem.

This distracted driving summit will, in theory, take the debate about the growing problem and the threats to noncompliant states further. LaHood states, “People in America got fed up with their children and loved ones being killed by drunk drivers….And people in America are very tired of the idea that people can text and drive and use cellphones and drive in some states.” However, he adds, more is needed than just new laws. Just as with drunken driving, education and enforcement will help. LaHood has long been a proponent of raising concerns about talking on the phone and texting while driving.

Safety advocates are concerned the summit will be all bark and no bite; if there are not policies put in place to help end texting while driving, then there doesn’t seem to be a reason to get a bunch of bureaucrats together to talk more about something most people should already be aware of. They are also concerned that simply stating a ban on texting might leave the wrong impression that the problem has been solved, especially since another (and probably larger) problem is that of people talking on cellphones while driving.

However, if the summit can produce results, then this could be a “sea change” according to Clarence Ditlow, executive director for the Center of Auto Safety. Still, just having this kind of meeting is an improvement over officials past behavior of simply ignoring the evidence that thousands of deaths and hundreds of thousands of accidents a year may be the result of texting while driving.

Some of this might be in response to the media keeping up on accidents caused by texting as well as several studies that show drivers are much more likely to be involved in an auto accident while talking on a cellphone. It has also been reported that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration conducted their own study, but did not release the results because Congress did not want them to lobby states on safety issues.

Leave it to the geniuses in Congress to get the ball rolling on long-overdue safety regulations when they meant to suppress and cover up the information from the public.