DOT summit to target distracted driving

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Updated Jan 13, 2010

Legislation would prompt states to ban texting

Citing several recent fatal accidents involving text messaging, U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood announced that the Department of Transportation will host a summit Sept. 30 – Oct. 1 to address the dangers of text-messaging and other distractions behind the wheel. Senior transportation officials, elected officials, safety advocates, law enforcement representatives and academics will convene in Washington, D.C., to discuss ideas about how to combat distracted driving.

“If it were up to me, I would ban drivers from texting, but unfortunately, laws aren’t always enough,” LaHood said. “We’ve learned from past safety awareness campaigns that it takes a coordinated strategy combining education and enforcement to get results.” LaHood said that he would announce a series of steps to address the problem following the summit. The summit will be available live by webcast, and the public will be allowed to submit questions online for each panel discussion. For information and updates on the summit, go to

The American Trucking Associations commended DOT and LaHood for holding the summit. “Improving driver performance by eliminating distractions, including those caused by text messaging, will greatly improve the safety of all motorists,” said Bill Graves, ATA president and chief executive officer. Last October, ATA adopted a safety agenda that includes a policy of minimizing or eliminating driver distraction caused by using electronic devices while operating any type of motor vehicle.

Several U.S. senators introduced legislation (S. 1536) July 29 that would withhold 25 percent of federal highway funds from states that don’t ban texting while operating a motor vehicle within two years of the law’s enactment. ATA voiced support for the objectives of the legislation, but added that it will work to ensure that the bill does not inadvertently require states to outlaw the use of truck cab fleet management systems that provide limited but necessary cargo-related information to professional drivers.

Text messaging while driving already is illegal in Alaska, California, Connecticut, Minnesota, New Jersey, Tennessee, Utah and the District of Columbia. In these states, police can stop a driver for texting while driving and ticket the driver. Text messaging while driving also is illegal in Maryland, Virginia, Washington and Louisiana, but police cannot ticket a driver in these states for the offense unless the driver has been stopped for another traffic offense. Six additional states have legislation in place that will prohibit text messaging while driving by January 2010.

A National Highway Traffic Safety Administration roadside survey in 2007 confirmed a continuing decline in the percentage of legally intoxicated drivers during weekend nighttime hours, but the survey also identified significant use of marijuana and cocaine. In 1973, 7.5 percent of drivers had a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .08 or higher; in the latest survey, that figure had fallen to 2.2 percent. The 2007 survey, which measured drug use for the first time, found 16.3 percent of nighttime weekend drivers were drug-positive, and that the drugs used most commonly were marijuana (8.6 percent), cocaine (3.9 percent) and over-the-counter and prescription drugs (3.9 percent). To view the survey, go to and search “DOT HS 811 175” (including the quote marks).

American Trucking Associations’ Supply Chain Security & Loss Prevention Council presented its 2009 Excellence in Security Award to ABF Freight System Inc., its Leadership Award to Director of Security Geoff Stephany of Old Dominion Freight Line Inc., and its Cargo Theft Prevention Distinguished Service Award to Det. Keith Lewis, task force agent for the Major Theft Unit of the Georgia Bureau of Investigation. The council presented the awards at its 2009 Supply Chain Security & Law Enforcement Conference & Exhibition in Forsyth, Ga.

Precision Pulmonary Diagnostics announced that Green Bay, Wis.-based Schneider National renewed its contract with the company to provide sleep apnea screening and treatment services. The PPD sleep apnea program is aimed at identifying drivers with a high probability of sleep apnea through assessment of risk factors and then providing diagnosis and treatment through a network of sleep centers.