Driver distraction summit planned for next week

| 9/25/2009

The U.S. DOT is taking driver distractions seriously, and officials want your input.

Department of Transportation officials are seeking comments and questions from the public in advance of a summit on distracted driving scheduled next week in Washington, DC.

The summit will bring lawmakers, transportation officials and safety groups together to discuss distractions with an emphasis on text messaging and e-mailing.

Earlier this summer, U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer, D-NY, and Rep. Carolyn McCarthy, D-NY, filed legislation seeking to withhold federal transportation dollars from states that don’t adopt a ban on driver text messaging. A number of states have laws, but they vary in scope and penalties.

The summit called by U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood is scheduled to take place Sept. 30-Oct. 1 at the Renaissance Hotel in Washington, DC. See below for information about how to submit comments.

A recent online poll by Land Line Magazine showed 82 percent of respondents are in favor of a federal ban on texting. While the poll was unscientific, the numbers are close to the findings of other recent polls around the country.

Auto manufacturer Ford Motor Company issued a statement in support of a federal texting ban while driving.

“The most complete and most recent research shows that activity that draws drivers’ eyes away from the road for an extended period while driving, such as text messaging, substantially increases the risk of accidents,” stated Sue Cischke, Ford’s group vice president for sustainability, environment and safety engineering.

Ford supports hands-free technology that helps keep drivers’ hands on the wheel and eyes on the road, Cischke said.

Enforcement of a possible ban on texting remains one of the big questions heading into the summit.

To learn more and to offer a comment or question for the participants to consider, click here and follow directions to the Federal Register.

You may submit comments in writing to the U.S. Department of Transportation, 1200 New Jersey Ave. S.E., 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 faxed to 202-493-2251.

– By David Tanner, staff writer