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 to AmericanMotorcyclist.com/legisltn/positions/distracted.asp.
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 to AmericanMotorcyclist.com/news/story.asp?id=1482.
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 to AmericanMotorcyclist.com/news/story.asp?id=1480.
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.