Alabama tackles distracted driving

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U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood delivered the keynote speech Dec. 3 at the Alabama Distracted Driving Summit in Birmingham, addressing the dangerous and growing trend of distracted driving. LaHood also commended the University of Alabama at Birmingham and the Transportation Centers in Birmingham and Tuscaloosa for their leadership in convening the first-ever statewide summit on the issue.

“Distracted driving is a serious life-and-death problem,” LaHood said. “There are proven strategies we can use to help combat this epidemic, but it will also take leadership and coordination to protect our communities and the traveling public. The University of Alabama-Birmingham’s summit – the first of its kind outside Washington – helps continue the national conversation on distracted driving and will put more good ideas on the table to prevent needless deaths. I hope other states will follow its lead.”

Modeled on the national Distracted Driving Summit this past fall, Alabama’s summit was cosponsored by UAB’s University Transportation Center, part of the UAB Injury Control and Research Center, and the University Transportation Center for Alabama. “Secretary LaHood issued a challenge to the states to move quickly to address the issues of distracted driving,” said Dr. Russ Fine, director of the UAB UTC. “Alabama’s response has been gratifying.”

Research findings by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration show nearly 6,000 people died in 2008 in crashes involving a distracted or inattentive driver, and more than half a million were injured. On any given day in 2008, more than 800,000 vehicles were driven by someone using a handheld cell phone. The worst offenders are the youngest drivers: men and women under 20 years of age.