AUSTIN, Texas, April 26, 2012 /PRNewswire/ -- National Distracted Driving Awareness month may be drawing to a close, but safety experts from around the state are making sure the conversation continues.
Today, the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) joins other traffic safety partners—including law enforcement and federal, state and local officials—to participate in the first Texas Distracted Driving Summit in San Antonio. USAA is presenting the event, in association with TxDOT and Shriners Hospitals for Children®.
"Today's Texas Distracted Driving Summit is a reminder of how far we have come in just the last three years in combatting America's distracted driving epidemic—and how far we still have to go," said U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood, who delivered the keynote address at the event. "I am grateful to all of the advocates who are working tirelessly here in Texas to remind drivers to keep their eyes on the road, their hands on the wheel and their focus on driving."
More than 200 participants—including physicians and businesses—are attending the event and have pledged to be a part of the effort to curb distracted driving. In fact, a key participant, the Insurance Council of Texas, plans to facilitate a meeting of summit participants to review lessons learned as well as discuss future plans to reduce distracted driving in Texas.
"Today's dialogue is an important step for the state of Texas in fighting distracted driving," said Carol T. Rawson, TxDOT's Traffic Operations division director. "Each of us has a role in changing this behavior, and we look forward to working with our private sector partners to increase awareness around the state."
At today's summit, experts and advocates against distracted driving are sharing experiences, insights and knowledge to keep the consequences of distracted driving in the national conversation. Participants have much to discuss.
Victims' families are sharing personal stories, academics are discussing the science and research behind the behavior; and physicians are weighing in on the traumatic injuries distracted driving crashes cause. Also, summit attendees are discussing broader aspects of distracted driving, such as how corporations can help address the issue of distracted driving through their own policies. Further, one presentation takes a unique perspective on distracted driving, highlighting the fact that some populations, such as some veterans post-deployment, may be dealing with unique distractions on our roadways.
"The tremendous interest in today's event is proof the people of Texas are committed to putting an end to the state's distracted driving epidemic," said Jennifer Smith, who has advocated against distracted driving since her mother was killed by someone talking on his cell phone while driving in 2008. "Too many families have lost loved ones in 100 percent preventable crashes, and we are going to take the momentum from today's summit to chart a path forward to keep the roadways of Texas safe from further distracted driving crashes."
In 2011, more than 81,000 Texas crashes involved some type of distraction or driver inattention, and 361 of these crashes were fatal. Nearly one in four crashes in Texas involves driver distraction. TxDOT is continuing its Talk. Text. Crash. campaign launched last year to increase awareness of distracted driving. Throughout April, TxDOT is running radio PSAs statewide to remind motorists to refrain from engaging in non-driving activities while on the road, especially cell phone use and texting. The summit is a new aspect of this year's Talk. Text. Crash. campaign that provides an opportunity for many different organizations to share information about distracted driving.
"Distracted driving is a completely preventable yet widespread problem," said Maj. Gen. Kevin Bergner, retired, and president, USAA Property and Casualty Group. "It's incumbent on all of us with a stake in highway safety to be indignant about this behavior so it becomes as socially unacceptable as drunk driving."
"Motor vehicle collisions are the leading cause of spinal cord injuries," said Dr. Lawrence Vogel, MD, Shriners Hospitals for Children® Chicago. "As a world-leader in pediatric spinal cord injury rehabilitation and management, we are committed to doing our part to prevent injuries and fatalities on the road by promoting safe driving practices through education and awareness efforts. We see a large number of patients from Texas, so we are thrilled to participate in the statewide Distracted Driving Summit."
The Texas Department of Transportation
The Texas Department of Transportation is responsible for maintaining 80,000 miles of road and for supporting aviation, rail, and public transportation across the state. TxDOT and its 11,000 employees are committed to working with others to provide safe and reliable transportation solutions for Texas by maintaining a safe system, addressing congestion, connecting Texas communities, and being a Best in Class state agency. Find out more at www.txdot.gov. Fan us on Facebook www.facebook.com/txdot. Follow us on Twitter www.twitter.com/txdot.
USAA provides insurance, banking, investment and retirement products and services to 9 million members of the U.S. military and their families. Known for its legendary commitment to its members, USAA is consistently recognized for outstanding service, employee well-being and financial strength. USAA membership is open to all who are serving or have honorably served our nation in the U.S. military – and their eligible family members. For more information about USAA, or to learn more about membership, visit usaa.com.
Shriners Hospitals for Children®
Shriners Hospitals for Children® is a health care system of 22 hospitals dedicated to improving the lives of children by providing pediatric specialty care, innovative research, and outstanding teaching programs for medical professionals. Children up to age 18 with orthopedic conditions, burns, spinal cord injuries, and cleft lip and palate are eligible for care and receive all services in a family-centered environment, regardless of the patients' ability to pay. For more information, visit www.shrinershospitalsforchildren.org. Find us on Facebook www.facebook.com/ShrinersHospitalsforChildren; Follow us on Twitter www.twitter.com/shrinershosp
SOURCE Texas Department of Transportation