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April is Distracted Driving Awareness Month
Blog From Ray LaHood, Transportation Secretary

Distracted Driving dummy with signAccording to the new Safety In Numbers newsletter from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, at any given daylight moment across America, about 660,000 drivers are using cell phones or manipulating electronic devices behind the wheel. With that many people texting or talking while driving, 3,300 people were killed in distraction-related crashes in 2011 and another 387,000 were injured.

Distracted driving is a deadly epidemic on our nation's roadways.

Because of the dangers electronic device distraction poses to everyone on our roads--drivers, passengers, bicyclists, and pedestrians--I am devoting the next two week on the Fast Lane to a variety of compelling voices.

What are the dangers? Drivers who use hand-held devices are 4 times more likely to get into crashes serious enough to injure themselves. Text messaging creates a crash risk 23 times worse than driving while not distracted. Sending or receiving a text takes a driver's eyes from the road for an average of 4.6 seconds, the equivalent-at 55 mph-of driving the length of an entire football field, blind.

Yet in NHTSA's 2012 National Survey of Distracted Driving Attitudes and Behaviors, almost half of drivers said they answer an incoming call--and one in four drivers are willing to place a call--on all, most, or some trips. In fact, as NHTSA Administrator David Strickland said, “Many drivers do see distracted driving as risky when other drivers do it, but don't recognize how their own driving deteriorates.”

We all think we're the exception. We think, "It's dangerous for others, but I can handle texting or talking on a handheld cell phone without jeopardizing my safety or the safety of others."

There is no way to text and drive safely. And when we're wrong about distracted driving, the consequences are tragic and permanent.

Distracted driving exacts a tremendous cost from a wide range of people--victims who have survived a crash; parents who have lost children and children who have lost parents or siblings; wives, husbands, and friends who have lost loved ones; law enforcement officers who are first on the scene at horrific crashes.

If the NHTSA Safety In Numbers newsletter is any indication, we need to hear from them. And in the next two weeks, right here on the Fast Lane, we will.