Summit focuses on distracted driving

September 30, 2009 (WASHINGTON, D.C.) The U.S. Transportation Department is holding a summit meeting in Washington, D.C., this week to talk about how to deal with distracted drivers.

Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood says that last year, more than 800,000 vehicles were driven by people using handheld phones. He says strong laws, tough enforcement and ongoing public education can curb distracted driving-- and make the roads safer for everyone.

"Every single time you take your eyes off the road or talk on the phone while you're driving, even for just a few seconds, you put your life in danger, and you put other lives in danger also. This kind of behavior is irresponsible, and the consequences are devastating," said LaHood.

Six thousand people were killed last year and a half million others were injured in vehicle crashes connected to driver distraction.

LaHood says he wants the summit to set the stage for finding ways to eliminate texting while driving, which is already against the law here in Illinois.

"We are determined to make the rules of Illinois the safest ever," said Secretary of State Jesse White.

Secretary of State Jesse White says Illinois is proud to be the 17th state in the nation with a ban on texting while driving. That effort started a few years ago, after Matt Whilhelm was killed while riding his bike in Champaign by a woman who was texting behind the wheel. White says he hopes that after this summit, more states will follow suit.

"We are trying to do all we can to let public know that when they are behind the wheel, their aim is to get from point A to point B in safe and responsible manner," said White.

Chicago already has a ban on hand held cell phones while driving... And next month, the secretary of state's office will ask Springfield to study whether there should be a statewide ban on hand held cell phones.

The DC summit ends Thursday.

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