On Tuesday, U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood kicked off the 2010 national Distracted Driving Summit by announcing new anti-distracted driving regulations for bus drivers and rail operators, as well as drivers transporting hazardous materials and commercial trucks. LaHood also identified more than 550 U.S. companies — employing 1.5 million people nationwide — that have committed to enacting anti-distracted driving employee policies in the next 12 months.
The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) also released interim data this morning from its pilot enforcement campaigns in Hartford, Conn. and Syracuse, N.Y., showing that its "Phone in One Hand, Ticket in the Other" enforcement efforts have already dramatically reduced distracted driving behavior in both cities.
Secretary LaHood also announced that he is initiating a new rulemaking to prohibit commercial truck drivers from texting while transporting hazardous materials. In addition, he announced that two rules proposed at last year's summit have now become law. Rules banning commercial bus and truck drivers from texting on the job and restricting train operators from using cell phones and other electronic devices while in the driver's seat have been posted today.
"We are taking action on a number of fronts to address the epidemic of distracted driving in America," Secretary LaHood said. "With the help of the experts, policymakers and safety advocates we've assembled here, we are going to do everything we can to put an end to distracted driving and save lives."
The U.S. DOT has also been working with the Network of Employers for Traffic Safety (NETS) to engage the private sector to promote anti-distracted driving policies in the workplace. NETS, which was created by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), is an employer-led, public-private partnership dedicated to improving the safety and health of employees by preventing traffic crashes.
The U.S. DOT and NETS announced on Tuesday that almost 1,600 U.S. companies and organizations have adopted distracted driving policies to date, covering approximately 10.5 million workers nationwide. An additional 550 organizations have committed to adopting policies that will cover another 1.5 million employees within the next 12 months.
In 2009, nearly 5,500 people died and half a million were injured in crashes involving a distracted driver. According to NHTSA research, distraction-related fatalities represented 16 percent of overall traffic fatalities in 2009.