DOT calls texting, cell phone summit

DOT logoA national summit on the issue of drivers’ use of cell phones and text messaging devices has been set by the U.S. Department of Transportation.

The gathering of senior transportation officials, safety advocates, law enforcement representatives, members of Congress and academics who study distracted driving will be “in late September,” Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood announced Tuesday.

“I’m against texting but I’m not going to pre-judge the summit,” LaHood later said in a Twitter entry.

The DOT will announce a series of actions to deal with the distracted driving crisis after the summit.

“The public is sick and tired of people being distracted and causing accidents,” LaHood said at a press conference announcing the federal summit. “We all know texting while driving is dangerous and we are going to do something about it so that responsible drivers don’t have to worry about it when they or a loved one get on the road.”

Update: View the agenda for the DOT summit on distracted driving.

The DOT move follows a month of revelations regarding text messaging and cell phone use by drivers. The New York Times detailed how the dangers of cell phone use were covered up earlier in the decade by federal researchers. Then, a Virginia Tech study reported that truckers who were text messaging were 23 times more likely to get into wrecks than those who were not.

A wave of newspaper editorials followed these reports, calling for state legislators to take action.

DOT secretary Ray LaHoodA group of Democratic senators have proposed a federal cutoff of highway funding for states that fail to address text messaging and driving within the next two years.

The federal government cannot outright ban texting while driving because highway issues are in the states’ jurisdiction.

“If it were up to me, I would ban drivers from texting, but unfortunately, laws aren’t always enough,” LaHood (pictured, above) said in a statement. “We’ve learned from past safety awareness campaigns that it takes a coordinated strategy combining education and enforcement to get results. That’s why this meeting with experienced officials, experts and law enforcement will be such a crucial first step in our efforts to put an end to distracted driving.”

Details of the still-in-development summit will be available on a DOT web page and on Twitter ().

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