DOT chief 'deeply concerned' about dangers of cell-phone use while driving
Statement comes in response to release of previously withheld documents on cell phone use and highway deaths
Matt Hamblen July 23, 2009
(Computerworld) Federal officials today acknowledged the dangers of using a cell phone or texting while driving, saying the U.S. secretary of Transportation is "deeply concerned" about drivers distracted by using cell phones or texting.
The Department of Transportation statement comes after the release of federal documents obtained under pressure by consumer advocacy groups showing for the first time that federal transportation officials were aware that cell-phone use while driving caused hundreds of highway deaths annually as early as 2002.
In an e-mail statement to Computerworld, a DOT spokesman said that DOT Secretary Ray LaHood "is deeply concerned that drivers are taking their focus off the road to send text messages or use the cell phone."
While the statement does not urge drivers to stop driving while making calls, it adds that "distracted driving causes crashes, and we want to stress that the best way to avoid accidents is for drivers to keep their eyes and their concentration on the road when they get behind the wheel."
The DOT issued the statement following the release of hundreds of pages documents from 2003 obtained under the Freedom of Information Act by two consumer advocacy groups, the Center for Auto Safety and Public Citizen. The documents were first provided to the New York Times, and also posted to the Center for Auto Safety Web site.
The documents include findings in which highway safety researchers estimated in 2003 that cell phone use by drivers caused 955 fatalities and 240,000 accidents in 2002.