WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood last week released a "Blueprint for Ending Distracted Driving" that offers a comprehensive strategy to address what he described as the growing and dangerous practice of using handheld cell phones behind the wheel.
The plan outlines concrete steps that stakeholders around the country — from lawmakers and safety organizations to families and younger drivers — can take to reduce the risk posed by distracted driving.
While unveiling the plan, LaHood also announced $2.4 million in federal support for California and Delaware that will expand the U.S. Department of Transportation's "Phone in One Hand, Ticket in the Other" pilot enforcement campaign to reduce distracted driving.
"Distracted driving is an epidemic," LaHood said. "While we've made progress in the past three years by raising awareness about this risky behavior, the simple fact is people are continuing to be killed and injured — and we can put an end to it."
Officials said that the "Blueprint for Ending Distracted Driving" recognizes the extent and complexity of the problem. The plan:
• Encourages the remaining 11 states without distracted driving laws to enact and enforce such legislation.
• Challenges the auto industry to adopt new and future guidelines for technology to reduce the potential for distraction on devices built or brought into vehicles.
• Partners with driver education professionals to incorporate new curriculum materials to educate novice drivers of driver distraction and its consequences. Data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration show that drivers under age 25 are two to three times more likely than older drivers to send text messages or e-mails while driving.
• Provides all stakeholders with actions they can take that go beyond personal responsibility to helping end distracted driving nationwide.
Coinciding with the release of the "Blueprint for Ending Distracted Driving," LaHood announced that California and Delaware have been selected to receive federal support for pilot projects that will test the effect of increased law enforcement and high-profile public education campaigns on distracted driving.
The Department of Transportation is providing the two states with $2.4 million in federal support for the pilot programs. Both are expected to be underway this fall.