Editor's Note: Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood wanted to speak directly to the people ahead of the Department of Transportation's Distracted Driving Summit this Tuesday, September 21st, so he came to Autoblog and asked to use our soapbox. We're not about to deny court with the Secretary, particularly on a topic for which we care so much about. So Mr. Secretary, the floor is yours...
I know the readers of Autoblog understand the dangers of distracted driving because you've been sounding the alarm on this deadly epidemic for years, long before I became Secretary of Transportation. Most Autoblog readers know by now that real drivers just drive.
And, because I appreciate the heavy lifting Autoblog and its readers have been doing on this issue, I'm making my appeal to America's automotive fans right here.
We all know that Americans love their cars. In Peoria, Ill., where I grew up, the weather isn't as kind to our vehicles as it is in other places, but we do have miles of scenic roads between towns where drivers can really enjoy the hum of their car as they take it for a long drive.
Unfortunately, many of today's drivers are too busy texting or talking on their mobile phones while they're driving. And that's exactly the practice car lovers everywhere should join me in fighting against.
Like you, I love driving. I have a 1998 Buick Regal in Washington, D.C., as well as a Ford Escape back home in Peoria. And, also like you, when I drive, I want to do so on roads that are not full of people who simply don't pay attention to their driving.
But, the sad reality is that people who drive distracted are causing harm to the rest of us.
For example, Jenifer Watkins of Las Vegas, Nev., suffered disabling head injuries in a crash caused by a driver fiddling with her cell phone. Eric Okerblom, of Santa Maria, Calif., was killed when a vehicle operated by a texting driver struck his bicycle and threw him 140 feet. Their families will live with their grief forever.
It's because of these families – and the families of the 6,000 people in 2008 who were killed in distraction-related crashes – that I'm on this rampage against distracted driving.
And it's because of these families that I am convening a second national summit on distracted driving next Tuesday, September 21, in Washington, D.C. On Tuesday, we'll take stock of what we've achieved in the past 12 months, share new findings, and chart a course for the future of this important fight.
You don't have to travel all the way to Washington to participate in the summit. We've taken steps to make sure it's accessible wherever there's an internet connection. We're webcasting it at www.distraction.gov, and our panelists will even take some of your questions if you email them in advance at DDSummit@dot.gov. Also, our staff will blog throughout the day about the summit at fastlane.dot.gov and tweet about it at twitter.com/StopDistraction.
Now, even if the readers of Autoblog are not part of the problem, I hope you can be part of the solution.
So, besides following the summit activities, I'd really like the car buffs on Autoblog to tell other people about it. Especially the young drivers you know, because--although distracted driving occurs across age categories--young drivers are particularly vulnerable to fatal accidents involving texting or talking behind the wheel.
Please, share the summit information with your friends and family members. And, please, let them know that only when we all take personal responsibility for our driving habits can we end this epidemic.
With your help, we can save lives and make our roads safer for all of us.
- Ray LaHood, U.S. Secretary of Transportation