Published August 04, 2009
WASHINGTON -- The Obama administration will convene a summit of experts to figure out what to do about the problem of texting while driving, a practice studies and a growing number of accidents show can be deadly.
Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood will announce his decision to gather senior transportation officials, safety advocates, law enforcement representatives, members of Congress and academics who study distracted driving at a news conference Tuesday. The summit will take place next month.
If it were up to him, he would ban texting while driving, LaHood said in prepared remarks released by his office.
However, past safety initiatives like seat belts have shown that a simple ban often isn't enough to get drivers to change their habits unless it's accompanied by education and enforcement, he said.
"When we are done, I expect to have a list of concrete steps to announce," LaHood said.
"The bottom line is, we need to put an end to unsafe cell phone use, typing on BlackBerrys and other activities that require drivers to take their eyes off the road and their focus away from driving," LaHood said.
LaHood pointed to several fatal incidents involving texting, including a train crash last year in California in which 25 people were killed and 135 were injured. The train operator, who was texting at the time of the accident, was one of those killed.
In a study released last week, the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute found that when drivers of heavy trucks texted, their collision risk was 23 times greater than when not texting. Dialing a cell phone and using or reaching for an electronic device increased risk of collision about six times in cars and trucks.
The Virginia Tech researchers said the risks of texting generally applied to all drivers, not just truckers.
A separate report by Car and Driver magazine found that texting and driving is more dangerous than drunken driving.