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Press Conference on 2010 FARS Data on December 8, 2011

Secretary Ray LaHood

--Remarks as Prepared--

Press Conference on 2010 FARS Data on Record Reductions in Traffic Fatalities
Department of Transportation Headquarters
Thursday, December 8, 2011

Good morning, everyone. Thank you for joining us.

We’re here today, at the beginning of the holiday season, to celebrate some very good news.  America’s 2010 traffic safety numbers are in.  And we’re pleased to report that, last year, roadway fatalities and injuries fell to their lowest rates ever – and to their lowest numbers in more than six decades.

This record-breaking decline occurred even as Americans drove more miles than ever before.  It’s a tribute to the tireless advocacy of our safety agencies and partner organizations over decades.  And it’s the result of three important factors: Cars are safer, as crash avoidance and crash worthiness technologies continue to improve; roads are safer, with safer intersections, better signs and lighting, and more effective crash barriers; drivers are safer, buckling their seatbelts at record rates and choosing not to get behind the wheel after drinking.

But we’re here today because our work isn’t done.  Not by a long shot.  Not when almost 33,000 people died on our roadways last year.  So, while we should be encouraged by our success, we cannot be lulled into complacency.

This is especially true when it comes to America’s distracted driving epidemic.  There is good news on this front. States and communities are passing tough laws, stepping up their enforcement efforts, and partnering with us to educate the American people about the dangers of texting and talking in the driver’s seat.  But we have much more work to do in persuading people that the only safe way to get from one place to another is to hang up and drive.

To that end, today, we’re unveiling a new way to gauge the number of fatalities related to distracted driving.  We’re calling it “distraction-affected crashes.”  This new measure gives us more precise data about deaths and injuries caused by the actions most likely to result in crashes – for instance, dialing a cell phone or sending a text message.

NHTSA’s data and analysis show that distracted driving is still a deadly problem.  You don’t need to take my word for it.  Just look around you when you’re in your car.  People know they should pay attention to the road, not their phone, but they’re still making calls and sending emails behind the wheel.  And we will not let up in our crusade until people make the choice to turn off the phone and put it in the glove box.  No text or call is so important that it can’t wait until you reach your destination.

Look, in President Obama’s administration and this Department of Transportation, we remain laser-focused on safety, our top priority.  The American people have entrusted us with their safety.  We will never take that trust lightly.

That means reminding American families, friends, and neighbors to click it or get a ticket.  That means reminding Americans to drive sober or get pulled over.  That means reminding Americans that one text or call can wreck it all.

The fact is: America’s roads are the safest they’ve ever been. But they must be safer.  And we will never give an inch in our fight to save lives, prevent injuries, and keep the American people safe.

With that, I’ll turn over the podium to our outstanding NHTSA administrator, David Strickland, who will talk more about how NHTSA conducted this historic research and developed our new measure of “distraction-affected crashes.”

Thank you all very much.

Updated: Wednesday, April 11, 2012