Efforts to fight distracted driving move into high gear
PICKERINGTON, Ohio (November 2, 2009) -- President Obama's administration and federal lawmakers are making it clear that they are serious about reducing distracted driving on the nation's roads, the American Motorcyclist Association (AMA) reports.
In October alone, Obama signed an executive order banning federal workers from text-messaging on cell phones while driving government vehicles, U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood told federal lawmakers at hearings that he will work to "raise the awareness (of the dangers of distracted driving) and sharpen the consequences," and U.S. House and Senate committees held hearings on the issue.
"One motorcyclist killed on our highways is one too many, so it's encouraging to see that decision-makers at the federal level are taking the dangers of distracted driving seriously," said Ed Moreland, AMA vice president for government relations. "The AMA has adopted a position statement that endorses enhanced penalties for those who injure or kill others while operating a motor vehicle when distracted or inattentive operation is involved. But the goal must be to prevent the crashes from occurring in the first place."
To read the AMA's position statement on distracted and inattentive driving, please go here.
LaHood hosted a distracted-driving summit involving transportation and other experts from around the nation Sept. 30-Oct. 1 to gain insights into how to battle the problem. The AMA was an invited guest to the summit and strongly urged that motorcyclists be considered in all future discussions about the impacts of distracted driving.
The AMA also attended hearings held by federal lawmakers on the issue.
The U.S. House Subcommittee on Highways and Transit of the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure held a hearing on Oct. 29, "Addressing the Problem of Distracted Driving." At the hearing, LaHood said education and awareness campaigns are essential for getting people to stop texting or engaging in other distracting activities while driving.
"We are still researching the effectiveness of combining high-visibility (law) enforcement with outreach campaigns in the distracted-driving context," LaHood said. "But we are hopeful that such efforts may prove effective in the same way that we've been able to use them to reduce drunk driving and increase seatbelt use."
He also said that while cell-phone texting gets a lot of attention, there are many distractions for drivers.
"I think any distraction is a problem," he testified. "I think eating a hamburger, putting your makeup on, shaving, texting, talking on a cell phone, these are all distractions. But the epidemic is really with people texting. But all of these other things are distractions too."
LaHood also mentioned Greg Zaffke II, who is taking steps to educate Americans about distracted driving after his mother, Anita Zaffke, was killed in May on her motorcycle. She was stopped at a stoplight in Lake Zurich, Ill., when a woman driver allegedly painting her fingernails while driving crashed into the back of Anita, killing her.
"Now he has an organization called the Black Nail Brigade where he paints the fingernails on one hand and wears a T-shirt called the Black Nail Brigade and travels all over the country trying to persuade people not to text, not to paint your nails, not to shave, not to put on makeup, not to eat a McDonalds hamburger," LaHood said.
To view an archived video of the House subcommittee hearing, please go here.
The U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation also held a hearing on Oct. 28, "Combating Distracted Driving: Managing Behavioral and Technological Risks." To view an archived video of the hearing, please go here.
Riders can contact their U.S. senators and representatives to thank them for having these hearings on combating distracted driving and urge them to include the motorcycle community in the ongoing discussions on legislation and development of technologies. To find contact information for elected officials, go to AmericanMotorcyclist.com > Rights > Issues & Legislation.
ACTION ALERT: Congress to Hold Hearings on Distracted Driving
Contact your Senators and Representatives today! TAKE ACTION!
PICKERINGTON, Ohio -- The U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science & Transportation and the U.S. House of Representatives Subcommittee on Highways and Transit of the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure will hold separate hearings on combating distracted driving on October 28 and 29, respectively.
The Chairman of the Senate hearing has called U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood and Federal Communications Commission Chairman Julius Genachowski as witnesses. The House hearing currently has no witnesses scheduled.
The AMA is encouraged to learn that this Committee and Subcommittee, by holding hearings, acknowledges the dangers attributed to distracted driving, and places a priority on finding practical and fair solutions for all road users, including motorcyclists. Therefore, motorcyclists should be included whenever developing technologies are discussed. This issue greatly affects the motorcycle community, and bringing awareness to it may prevent crashes from occurring in the first place, and thereby reduce the likelihood of injury to all of America's roadway users.
The increasing numbers of motorcycle crashes caused by distracted drivers have spurred action from the motorcycle community. The AMA recently released a position statement addressing the issue of distracted and inattentive vehicle operation. In our statement, we acknowledged and emphasized the primary responsibility of all roadway users is the safe operation of their vehicles, regardless of the source - behavioral or technological -- of the distraction. To see AMA's full position statement on distracted and inattentive vehicle operation, please click here.
The AMA has been active in the discussions of distracted driving. The Association was invited and recently attended the U.S. Department of Transportation Distracted Driving Summit in Washington, D.C., hosted by Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. During the question and answer session following the Legislation, Regulation and Enforcement of Distracted Driving panel discussion, the AMA commented on the proceedings and posed a question to the panel.
We expressed our concern that little to no attention was paid to America's vulnerable roadway users, such as motorcyclists, bicyclists and pedestrians, when research and technology issues were discussed. The AMA requested to be included whenever distracted driving issues are discussed because our community has experienced many personal tragedies directly attributable to distracted or inattentive vehicle operation. To see an archived video and blog of the summit, please click here.
Please write or call your U.S. Senators and Representatives today to thank them for having these hearings on combating distracted driving and urge them to include the motorcycle community in the ongoing discussions and development of technologies. You can find contact information for your elected officials on AmericanMotorcyclist.com/Rights, and click on "Issues & Legislation," then enter your zip code in the "Find your Officials" box. Additionally, a prewritten e-mail is available for you to send to your elected officials by following the "Take Action" option and entering your information.