This morning, I heartily congratulate New York Times journalist Matt Richter whose "Driven to Distraction" articles won the 2010 Pulitzer Prize in Journalism for "national reporting." Matt, I can't thank you enough for the important service you've provided with this great series.
The Pulitzer jury honored Matt and New York Times staff members for: "for incisive work, in print and online, on the hazardous use of cell phones, computers and other devices while operating cars and trucks, stimulating widespread efforts to curb distracted driving."
And I couldn't agree more.
Matt's series, which began on July 18, 2009, with an article about how "Drivers and Legislators Dismiss Risk Cellphone Risks," has really helped raise awareness of this deadly epidemic. His subsequent reporting on two studies showing that "Texting Lifts Crash Risk by Large Margin," introduced the nation's readers to key data from a DOT-financed study by the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute and from the University of Utah.
Finally, thanks to Matt, the public saw evidence that distracted driving raised crash risk to dangerous levels.
From there, discussion about the harm caused by distracted driving entered the national conversation. And the results have been terrific. Advocacy groups have worked night and day against this deadly practice. State after state has banned texting behind the wheel. And Americans are changing their attitudes about this behavior.
What was once automatic is now becoming unacceptable.
We can't rest there. That distracted driving has worked its way into the mainstream is a great development. And I thank Matt Richtel and the New York Times for their role in getting this conversation started, and the Pulitzer jury for elevating it even further with yesterday's award.
But we know that people are still being killed and injured by drivers whose hands are not on the wheel, whose eyes are not on the road, and whose minds are far from focused on the task at hand.
This DOT is working hard to change that. We can't do it without you.