Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood on Thursday announced a national distracted-driving initiative that pushes 11 states without laws against the deadly practice to enact them. He also urged Congress to adopt a national ban on texting while driving.
"I don`t have a bill to hand to Congress," LaHood said. "I`ll leave it up to them. I`d be for a national ban, yeah."
LaHood`s "Blueprint for Ending Distracted Driving" also challenges automakers to adopt guidelines for technology to reduce the distraction on devices built or brought into vehicles. It asks driver-education professionals to incorporate new curriculum materials to educate novices about distraction and its consequences.
The initiative comes one day after a Massachusetts teenager was sentenced to a year in jail for a fatal traffic crash that happened while he was texting. Aaron Deveau of Haverhill was sentenced for the February 2011 crash that took the life of Donald Bowley, 55, and seriously injured Bowley`s girlfriend.
It also came as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released results of an anonymous national survey showing that 58% of high school seniors said they had texted or e-mailed while driving in the past 30 days. Overall, one in three teens had done so, according to the 2011 survey of 15,424 high schoolers.
LaHood`s plan expands to two new states a federal pilot program that has succeeded in Syracuse, N.Y., and Hartford, Conn.
California and Delaware will receive $2.4 million to test the effectiveness of police crackdowns and public education campaigns in reducing distracted driving. The efforts last year spurred a 72% drop in texting while driving in Hartford and a 32% decrease in Syracuse, LaHood said.
"Last year, Syracuse and Hartford demonstrated the effectiveness of different techniques for enforcing state handheld cellphone bans," said Barbara Harsha executive director of the Governors Highway Safety Association.
Distracted driving has been the highest-profile crusade...
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