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National Summit on Texting While Driving

Today the Los Angeles Times reports that Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood has announced plans for a national summit to study texting while driving and other behaviors that distract drivers.

“If it were up to me, I would ban drivers from texting,” LaHood said.

LaHood also said that prohibitive laws, including laws against drunk driving, are often insufficient without adequate education and enforcement.

“That’s why I have decided to convene a summit of senior transportation officials, safety advocates, law enforcement representatives, members of Congress and academics who study these matters,” said LaHood.

The national summit is scheduled for September. After the summit, LaHood plans to announce a list of “concrete steps” to reduce distracted driving. Steps may include education and awareness campaigns as well as legislative efforts.

Last week a bill was introduced to the Senate that would pressure states to pass laws that ban texting while driving. Known as the Avoiding Life-Endangering and Reckless Texting by Drivers Act, or the ALERT Drivers Act, the bill, if passed, will threaten to take away federal highway funding for states that do not enact adequate legislation. Drivers’ behavior is considered a state legislative issue.

If the bill becomes law, the Transportation Department will establish minimum criteria for state laws. States that do not comply will risk losing 25 percent of their highway funding.

Sixteen states already have laws that prohibit texting while driving, but these laws are often difficult to enforce. In Virginia and Washington, for example, law enforcement officers cannot pull over someone who is texting while driving unless the driver commits another violation such as speeding or failing to use proper turn signals. In some states, anti-texting laws currently apply only to young drivers.

When announcing the summit, LaHood referred to a recent Illinois auto accident in which a 17-year-old died after she drove off the road while texting. Additionally, last September, 25 people died and 135 were injured in a commuter train crash in Los Angeles in which the operator was texting.

“The bottom line is distracted driving is dangerous driving,” said LaHood.

I couldn’t agree more. A recent study found that texting truckers are 23 times more likely to crash. The study also found that light vehicle drivers are 2.8 times more likely to crash when dialing a cell phone; truckers dialing a phone are 5.9 times more likely to crash; and truckers reaching for a cell phone are 6.7 times more likely to crash.

When you’re driving, please keep your eye on the road. Remain alert and drive defensively so you can watch out for all those other distracted drivers. If you get a text message while you’re on the road, just wait. Reply to the message when you stop driving. This could save your life (and the lives of others).

If you’ve been injured by a distracted driver or someone who was driving while texting, contact an experienced personal injury attorney as soon as possible. The attorneys at MLN Law will stand up to insurance companies and make sure you get the compensation you deserve. Call us at 404-531-9700 to schedule your free consultation.