Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood today announced that the DOT is starting pilot programs in Hartford, Connecticut and Syracuse, New York to test whether increased law enforcement efforts can get distracted drivers to put down their cell phones and focus on the road.
Research by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration shows that in 2008, nearly 6,000 people were killed and more than a half million people were injured in crashes involving a distracted driver nationwide.
Almost 20% of all crashes that same year involved some type of distraction. Yet, the nation’s safety agency has not taken the simple steps to make cell phone use in automobiles by drivers illegal in all 50 states.
Many states have banned texting while driving – 21 of them so far. While some, including Connecticut and New York, have banned hand-held cell phone use.
The pilot enforcement programs, similar to previous drunk driving and safety belt use programs, are the first federally funded efforts in the country to focus on the effects of increased enforcement and public advertising on reducing distracted driving.
Drivers caught texting or talking on a hand-held cell phone will be pulled over and ticketed. The message is simple, “Phone in One Hand. Ticket in the Other.”
“Law enforcement will be out on the roads in Syracuse, NY, and Hartford, CT, with one simple message, if a driver is caught with a cell phone in one hand, they’ll end up with a ticket in the other,” said Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. “It’s time for drivers to act responsibly, put their hands on the wheel and focus on the road.”