Yesterday, we hosted our second Distracted Driving Summit, and, even after so much anticipation, it's difficult to imagine that it could have gone any better. Although you can watch video from the day's proceedings, I want to share a few points that I'm still thinking about this morning:
- Enforcement works;
- We must reach America's young people; and
- Americans don't need more dashboard distractions.
But, before we get to those, I must stress this one idea: Distraction-related crashes are 100% preventable; all we need is for drivers to step up and take personal responsibility for the 2,000-pound vehicles they command. Distracted driving does not just happen; it is a choice that flies in the face of that responsibility.
First, I want to thank Captain Shannon Trice of the Syracuse Police Department, who spoke about the effectiveness of our pilot enforcement program and made this observation:
"Law enforcement officers are ready to enforce distraction laws. Our pilot program shows that we are able to enforce these laws. And--because traffic enforcement is law enforcement--we are anxious to do so."
Captain Trice discussed the most effective techniques his colleagues in Syracuse were able to use in cracking down on drivers who flouted New York's ban on texting and using handheld phones while driving. The most interesting point for me? None of these techniques involved high-tech gear; they were all common sense approaches to police work.
What's important to me about the ability of these enforcement efforts to reduce distracted driving in Syracuse (cell use down 38%, texting down 42%) is that it neutralizes one of the main arguments I hear against laws prohibiting use of these devices while driving. What's the point, people ask, of passing laws if they can't be enforced?
Well, Captain Trice made it plenty clear yesterday that these laws can be enforced and that officers--recognizing that it makes their communities safer--want to enforce them.
Second, we still need to reach our young people. While distracted driving is a behavior practiced across demographic categories, the statistics tell us that young drivers are proportionately more likely to be killed in distraction-related crashes. This morning, I will address the NOYS Youth Summit, so please look for a blog later today devoted to young drivers and distraction.
Third, in recent weeks, we’ve heard about carmakers adding technology in vehicles that lets drivers update Facebook, surf the Web, or do any number of other things instead of driving safely. This trend just leaves me shaking my head. Look, features that pull drivers’ hands (manual distraction), eyes (visual distraction), and attention (cognitive distraction) away from the road are distractions. Period.
So, I’m going to work with the auto companies to develop new safety guidelines for technology in vehicles. It's just common sense to put safety before entertainment. Why not use these advances in innovation to decrease distraction-related deaths and injuries instead of multiplying the opportunities for driver distraction?
Now, that's a brief look at what I'm still thinking about this morning. But we covered a lot more ground than that yesterday. If you missed it or want to revisit a particular panel, you can find a link to our archived video at www.distraction.gov.
I really must thank everyone who attended yesterday's summit, everyone who followed along online, CSPAN for televising our proceedings, all of our speakers and guests, and the DOT staff who worked tremendously hard to make the day so productive. But, most of all, I want to thank Labor Secretary Hilda Solis, US Senator Amy Klobuchar, and--in particular--those who shared their heartbreaking stories and gave this epidemic a human face. Thank you, everyone.