For months now, I have championed efforts nationwide to reduce distracted driving. Today, we are releasing sample legislation to be used as a starting point for those state legislatures still looking to ban texting while driving.
Look, texting while driving, like talking on cell phones while driving, is a deadly epidemic. It's that simple, and the language we're providing today is another powerful tool to combat this serious threat.
One reason this new language should prove effective is that we worked with a variety of safety organizations to get it right. We also have the support of both the wireless and automobile industries.
This partnership should make it easier for the 31 states that have not already banned texting behind the wheel to get their acts together and get on board.
We're not talking about something abstract here; we're talking about people. In 2008, nearly 6,000 people died in crashes involving a distracted or inattentive driver, and more than half a million were injured.
So we're talking about a basic governmental function of states: protecting their citizens' lives.
Am I on a rampage? Yes, I am, and why shouldn't I be? When you've met the loved ones of victims killed by a texting driver, or heard them tell their tragic stories, you'll know what I'm talking about. Mothers who've buried their sons or daughters. Fathers devastated by loss. Brothers and sisters still reeling. Wives and husbands left to explain to their kids why mommy or daddy isn't coming home.
Now, we're doing what we can at the Federal level to stop this thoughtless behavior:
- September: we held the first Distracted Driving Summit.
- October: President Obama issued an Executive Order banning texting while driving for federal employees, and I testified before Congress.
- November: I urged employers across the country to ban texting behind the wheel for their employees.
- December: NHTSA launched www.distraction.gov, a distracted driving clearinghouse.
- January: our Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration banned texting while driving for commercial truck and bus drivers.
But this will not be enough to prevent more senseless deaths unless more states ban this practice and--importantly--authorize their law enforcement agencies to stop vehicles and issue citations to drivers who are texting while driving.
The language we're providing the states today should help them do just that without delay.
It's important to remember that our sample language reflects current circumstances and our current state of knowledge. So, it may need to be revised in the future to incorporate new research findings, address evolving technologies, or harmonize with other legislation.
If that's the case, DOT will be there--once again--to help.