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Florida Distracted Driving Summit

Secretary Ray LaHood

Florida Distracted Driving Summit

Tampa Convention Center

Tampa, Florida

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Hello everyone!

Thank you Kevin [Bergner, President of USAA] for the great introduction. And I thank USAA for everything they are doing to end distracted driving.

I also want to recognize the Florida Department of Transportation, the Distraction Advocate Network and Shriners Hospitals for Children for hosting this event.

Jennifer, I’m very proud of your leadership and I thank you for your dedication and determined advocacy.

We have made a lot of progress since our first distracted driving summit in 2009. In that time, many of you have worked tirelessly on this issue.

We all know that distracted driving is a deadly epidemic on America’s highways.  Too many drivers, especially our youngest drivers, think they can text or talk on the phone and drive at the same time. 

We all know that’s just not the case.

People who drive while distracted are taking their minds and eyes off the road.

For example, sending or reading a text distracts a driver for an average of 4.6 seconds. 

At 55 mph, that’s like driving the length of a football field blindfolded.

Distracted driving is unsafe, irresponsible and in a split second—the consequences can be devastating.

In 2010, 3,092 people were killed and an estimated 416,000 were injured in distraction-affected crashes.

These numbers are not just statistics—they are real people.

And these deaths and injuries are 100 percent preventable.

We need drivers to hang up, pay attention, and focus on the road. Put the phone in the glove compartment or zip it up in your bag.

No phone call or email is worth it.

When we first started working on this issue, only 18 states had anti-texting laws and another 7 states had complete bans on the use of hand-held devices. 

Now, 39 states have texting bans and 10 ban all hand-held phone use.

I am encouraged by the progress we’ve made, but as we all know—we still have much work to do.

DOT stands ready to work with the Florida legislature and all of you to pass a tough law that will help us crack down on distracted driving.

That’s not all. Last June, we released our “Blueprint for Ending Distracted Driving.”

The Blueprint outlines a path forward and offers concrete steps we can take to reduce the risk of distracted driving.

DOT is building on what we know works. We are combining good laws, strong enforcement, and an active public education campaign.

This strategy has worked before—with our “Click It or Ticket” seat belt campaign and our efforts to get drunk drivers off the road.

And it worked for the two distracted driving pilot projects we did in Hartford and Syracuse last year.

Now, we’re expanding our “Phone in One Hand, Ticket in the Other” pilot projects to California and Delaware. 

We’re committing $2.4 million to support increased law enforcement, more media, and good scientific evaluation.

Additionally, we’re addressing the ever changing technology in our vehicles. 

Earlier this year, we announced a proposal to create distraction guidelines for automakers.

These guidelines would focus on devices that are built-in to cars and trucks when they come off the line.

Our goal is to help automakers reduce the time it takes to use onboard electronic devices, such as a built in GPS system.

And finally, we’re teaching our kids—the most vulnerable and inexperienced drivers—that texting and driving don’t mix.

We know that teens are more connected than ever before—but we don’t want them to use those devices while they’re driving.

Teens believe they are invincible, that they can do anything and not get hurt. 

We know it’s tough to convince them otherwise.

But we’re doing everything we can to reach them and tell them how deadly cell phone use behind the wheel can be.

This year, we launched a contest encouraging high school students to create a social media icon that can be shared on Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr [Tum-blur]—wherever they are posting and connecting.

Today, I’m proud to announce the winner of our contest: Har’mari [Hah-mar-ee] Watson, who resides in Sanford, Florida.

She goes to Seminole High School, and she designed the icon you see behind me.

Har’mari is here with us today, and I’d like to invite her up to say a few words about distracted driving.

[Har’mari speaks]

Thank you and congratulations.

We’ve made progress in the past three years by raising awareness about the dangers of distracted driving, but the simple fact is people are continuing to be killed and injured because of this risky behavior.

We can and we must put an end to distracted driving.

We need everyone to do their part, whether it’s helping to pass strong laws, educating our youngest and most vulnerable drivers, or starting your own campaign to end distracted driving.  

We are in this together.

And we will not let up until distracted driving is a thing of the past.

Thank you all for your terrific work.

Updated: Wednesday, November 28, 2012