Federal Government to Combat Distracted Driving

Publish Date: 
Sep 23, 2009

STREETBIKE RIDERS, rejoice. U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood has declared war on distracted drivers. To this end, next Wednesday and Thursday he’s hosting the Distracted Driving Summit, during which senior transportation officials, politicians, safety advocates (including the MIC), law enforcement representatives and academics will convene in Washington, D.C., to discuss ways to combat text messaging and other distractions behind the wheel.

When LaHood announced the summit in early August, he stated, “Following next month’s summit, I plan to announce a list of concrete steps we will take to make drivers think twice about taking their eyes off the road for any reason.”

In a later press release, he said, “As we become a more mobile and wireless nation, we can’t afford to ignore new technology’s impact on roadway safety.”

The summit will feature five panels on data, research, policy, outreach and technology, including technology that could help prevent the consequences of driver distraction. The summit will consider legislative and regulatory approaches, as well as public awareness initiatives.

The summit will be broadcast live via webcast, and anyone will be able to submit questions online for each panel discussion. The Department of Transportation has also created a website to provide information and updates on the summit. Its homepage will contain a link to the webcasts.

In response to the summit, the MIC has issued a press release citing a 2006 research report released by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute. The study reportedly found that nearly 80 percent of crashes and 65 percent of near-crashes involved some form of driver inattention within three seconds before the event. Primary causes of driver inattention were distracting activities such as cell phone use and drowsiness.

“MIC is encouraged to see attention is being given to distracted driving,” Kathy Van Kleek, the MIC’s senior VP of Government Relations, stated. “Motorcyclists are particularly vulnerable to crashes involving a distracted driver as motorcycles are smaller than other vehicles and more likely to be obscured or overlooked.”

She continued, “MIC understands that distracted driving impacts all road users and is a serious issue for everyone; however, we hope the unique issues faced by motorcyclists will be addressed at the summit and considered in any recommendations for moving forward. We are also pleased that the MIC-initiated Motorcycle Safety Caucus will have the opportunity to weigh in on any Congressional recommendations.”

Duane Taylor, the MIC’s director of Federal Affairs, stated, “There are an estimated 9 million motorcycles on America’s highways, a significant number, but still a small fraction of all road users. This means that many drivers often do not anticipate motorcycles on the roadway and this issue can only be amplified when a driver is on the phone, texting or otherwise distracted.”