Agenda set for summit on distracted driving

| 9/17/2009

OOIDA Life Member Jeff Moe, a recently retired trucker from Salisbury, NC, has witnessed driver distractions in all shapes and sizes.

“I’ve seen a lot of accidents on the road because of texting,” Moe told Land Line. “Your mind has got to be on one thing when you’re driving, and that’s driving.”

Moe recalls that shortly before he retired, he was cut off by the driver of a passenger vehicle who was paying close attention to a cell phone.

“I just about wrecked my truck because of her. It’s just an awful thing,” he said. “If you lose your concentration for a minute – it takes much less than that – bad things will happen. You’re asking for trouble.”

The same goes for truckers, he said, whether old-school or new breed.

An upcoming summit in the nation’s capitol will shed light on distracted driving and assess whether laws and regulations should be toughened up.

U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood announced that more than 200 safety experts, researchers, elected officials and members of the public will participate in the summit. The event is scheduled for Sept. 30 and Oct. 1 at the Renaissance Hotel in Washington, DC.

Panelists will cover five topics: data, research, technology, policy and outreach.

“We must act now to stop distracted driving from becoming a deadly epidemic on our nation’s roadways,” LaHood said in a statement. “This summit will give safety leaders from across the nation a forum to identify, target and tackle the fundamental elements of this problem.”

Bills introduced in the U.S. House and Senate aim to ban texting or checking e-mail while driving. If a texting ban becomes law, the federal government would withhold up to 25 percent of transportation funding to states that do not adopt the regulations.

Truckers, many of whom rely on computers and personal communications while conducting business out on the road, have mixed reviews of a proposed texting ban.

A recent online poll by Land Line Magazine showed that 82 percent of respondents favored such a ban. Another 6 percent said they would be in favor of a ban if certain exemptions were included, while 12 percent said they do not favor banning driver texting.

The federal government wants to know your opinion and recently opened a public comment period in the Federal Register. Click here and follow the directions if you wish to make a comment online.

You may submit written comments to the U.S. Department of Transportation, 1200 New Jersey Ave. SE, West Building Ground Floor, Room W12-140, Washington, DC 20590-0001.

Comments may be hand delivered to the address from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday, or be faxed to 202-493-2251.

– By David Tanner, staff writer