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Together, we can end distracted driving, and Tuesday's national summit is a good place to start.

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.

Many of today's drivers are too busy texting or talking on their mobile phones while driving.
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.

Continue reading...

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.

Most Autoblog readers know by now that real drivers just drive.
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.

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

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    • 1 Second Ago
      • 4 Years Ago
      Yeah they do it here in CT too... it pisses me off to see cops on their cellphones while driving
        • 4 Years Ago
        Especially when we have a state requirement for hands free devices while driving.
      • 4 Years Ago
      People should be asked to take driving tests in manual transmission cars.
      • 4 Years Ago
      Re: dash distraction-----a single line digital readout should have replaced analog gauges long ago. I went digital in my old Stingray 10 yrs ago, instant lucidity was amazing!
      • 4 Years Ago
      I think they should make legislation requiring all cell phone carriers to lock the text messaging or e-mailing function if the phone's on board GPS detects you are moving more than 5 miles an hour. I had a crazy old boss who would e-mail people while she drove on her blackberry and she almost ended up in several accidents while I was following her to a meeting one day.

      This is worse than drunk driving because younger drivers not drinking yet can text and drive. Everyone has done it now we have to use technology to stop it. Then cell phones can develop a software to speak to text mandatory in all new phones. This will help a lot but nothing will happen unless there is an amendment and legislature.
      It took a Law to mandate seatbelts
      It took a law to mandate airbags
      It will take a law to lock out texting and driving from all new phones
      • 4 Years Ago
      I like the cut of his jib.

        • 4 Years Ago
        Except for the little part where I won't be able to call 911 if there's an emergency.
        • 4 Years Ago
        Short range (~10ft radial) phone jammers in cars. Put it in the b-pillar next to the driver. Easy fix.
      • 4 Years Ago
      If they seriously want to stop people from using cell phones in cars there is a simple solution. Nearly all new cell phones have GPS built in. Simply require require the include circuitry that disables their ability to transmit while moving any faster than walking speed.
      • 4 Years Ago
      Focusing on a handheld device while driving simply reflects the serious shortage of common sense which has been the case since time began.

      The requirements for a driver,s license border on criminality.
      • 4 Years Ago
      All I can say is, "Wow!" We don't have quite this much debate on my fastlane.dot.gov blog.
      Now, I've had my two cents, so I'm going to stay out of this lively debate.
      But I did want to say that the only criticism that hurts here is when people disparage my '98 Regal; that car has served the LaHood family well.
      And I also wanted to say thank you for the warm reception here on Autoblog.com. It's a fantastic community.
      • 4 Years Ago
      Mr. LaHood, the readers on Autoblog would like to know more details about your cars. Is your Ford Escape is a Hybrid? Also, is your Buick Regal Supercharged?

      I will pass on the information in your article.
      Thank you.
      • 4 Years Ago
      We need tougher, better driver's education and more challenging tests. Getting a license today is so easy that evens someone who barely understands English and has never been behind the wheel of a car can get their license.

      I also feel that we should have tougher punishments for running red lights, reckless driving, and general failure to follow the rules of the road. People don't bother to drive carefully because usually the "punishment" is nothing more than a ticket. I'm not talking about going 5 over the limit or something, I'm talking about people who continuously drive reckless and endanger others around them. Or people who instead of driving are trying to use their laptop while putting makeup on and talking on the phone.

      I believe texting should be made illegal and cell phone use should be hands free only...that's far less distracting.
      • 4 Years Ago
      It seems these days everywhere is a perfect place to air out ridiculously anachronistic, disjointed and nonsensical views.
        • 4 Years Ago
        Just a fact of life on the internet since day one. If people cannot be punched in the mouth, they will say some pretty crazy stuff without thinking about it first.
      • 4 Years Ago
      If you want to lessen distracted driving you'll need to make some unpopular changes. First bring back the manual transmission in a big way. Second make it part of the driver's training and testing. Then change our driving and testing standards. I think with a country this vast and with such a large population that we need driver training on the level of what is standard in Finland. If we put that cost into training and testing most people would pay more attention to the road and less to whatever technology that can be distracting. Also if car makers were forced to build more manual transmissions, I think it would force driver to not be as lazy as most drivers have become.
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