For the past three years, DOT has been a fierce opponent of Distracted Driving. We have hosted two National Distracted Driving Summits, supported strong enforcement efforts, and launched a compelling Faces of Distracted Driving PSA series.
This effort has paid off. Law enforcement, the business community, and media have joined us in making distracted driving part of the national conversation. Connecticut, New York, and California have demonstrated that enforcement works. And 37 states--plus DC and Guam--have banned texting behind the wheel. These are great signs of improvement.
But, in light of two new studies, one by our own National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and one by Bridgestone, distracted driving is still a dangerous epidemic, particularly among our youngest drivers.
To continue the drumbeat, I traveled to San Antonio yesterday, for the Texas Distracted Driving Summit, hosted by the Texas Department of Transportation, USAA, and the Shriners Hospitals for Children. At the summit, I was honored to be introduced by my good friend and fellow safety advocate, Jennifer Smith. Jennifer lost her mother to a distracted driver in September 2008 and has become a great ally in our fight to end this deadly epidemic.
We were joined by several other advocates, who have also lost loved ones to distracted driving crashes. You may remember the family of Alex Brown--a 17-year-old who died in a texting crash--from our Faces of Distracted Driving series. And I was saddened by the story of Jennifer Zamora, whose husband Javier survived the dangers of combat service in Iraq only to be killed here at home by a distracted driver.
Raising awareness is a critical part of helping to curb this dangerous behavior. Passing good laws and backing them up with strong enforcement is also crucial. Unfortunately, our host state Texas is not one of the 37 states that have banned texting while driving. It is disappointing, but that makes raising awareness at summits like this one even more important.
In the meantime, dozens of communities in Texas have passed their own distracted driving legislation, including our host city San Antonio.
As Bridgestone's data indicates America's teens are in denial about the very real threat distracted driving poses to their safety. Only one-third of the drivers surveyed by Bridgestone said that talking on a cell phone while driving is very dangerous. It's not just a problem among our youngest drivers; we know they're taking their cues from the experienced drivers around them.
We have an obligation to help spare our fellow citizens the heartbreak of losing a loved one because someone couldn’t put down their cell phone. DOT and our safety partners have worked hard during the past three years to do just that, but --whether it's raising awareness, helping states pass good laws, or stepping up enforcement-- we have more work ahead.
I hope you'll join us in this important fight.
If you want to help raise awareness about the dangers of distracted driving, take part in our Distracted Driving Icon Design Challenge at challenge.gov.