Secretary Ray LaHood
--Remarks as Prepared--
Distracted Driving Pilot Project Results
Syracuse, New York
Monday, July 11, 2011
Good morning. Thank you, David, for the introduction - and Mayor Miner for the welcome to Syracuse.
Fifteen months ago, the Obama Administration partnered with the City of Syracuse to test a simple idea. We asked, "Can we adapt a proven strategy, which has already reduced drunk-driving and increased seatbelt use, and use it to encourage people to keep their hands on the wheel and off the phone?" Well, today we know for certain that the answer is a resounding "yes."
After a year of research in two cities - Syracuse, New York, and Hartford, Connecticut - we know that our three-part recipe for safety is a success. The combination of tough laws, strong enforcement, and ongoing public awareness saves lives. But you don't have to take my word for it. The results speak for themselves.
Here in Syracuse, the data show that - because of high-visibility enforcement - both handheld cell phone use and texting behind the wheel have declined by one-third. In Hartford - where there was more room for improvement because researchers initially identified drivers talking on their cell phones with twice the frequency - we saw handheld use drop by 57 percent and texting behind the wheel drop by nearly three-quarters.
We've also been struck by the remarkable enthusiasm within both communities. The people of Syracuse and Hartford have warmly embraced this pilot project and its objective. They've changed their habits - and reminded their families and neighbors to do the same. Ultimately, they've drafted a blueprint for safety that cities and towns across American can replicate to make their roadways even safer.
So, what's next for us? We're going to test this same three part formula - tough laws, strong enforcement, and ongoing public awareness - at the state-wide level in several places.
We're going to keep doing what we've always done: Reminding people to take personal responsibility - and to turn off the cell phone every time they get into the driver's seat.
And we're going to keep pushing back against those who would minimize the risks of texting or talking while driving. They're deeply misguided if they think that 5,500 deaths and a half a million injuries a year is reasonable. And they're sorely mistaken if they think we will give up in the face of this epidemic.
When someone takes their focus off the road - even if just for a moment - they put their life, and the lives of others, in danger. Distracted driving is unsafe. It's irresponsible. And, in a split second, its consequences can be devastating.
There's no call or email so important that it can't wait. I hope that's one message everyone sends and receives loud and clear.