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The Secretary's Cause Knows No Bounds

Wednesday, May 19, 2010 - 05:51 PM

(United Nations - Collin Campbell, Transportation Nation) - Distracted driving is a top priority at the U.S. Department of Transportation.  Which isn't saying much some days.  Secretary Ray LaHood talks about it a lot.  The department is funding researching into how cops can write more tickets for talking and texting while driving.  LaHood often appears in public with people from Focus Driven, a non-profit that he helped create to raise awareness.

But the secretary's push faces a world moving the other way.  Cell phones have maps and GPS, automakers do things like put Twitter in the dashboard, and minivans are becoming wireless hot spots.  According to LaHood, the world now has 4.6 billion cell phone subscriptions and 600 million cars.  The math adds up to drivers who must resist many distractions.  And, even in the U.S., most cities, states and cops have yet to pass or enforce laws and regulations to back new behavior.

Today, LaHood stepped up to go global with his push.  Backed by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, US Ambassador to the UN Susan Rice, and Russian Ambassador to the UN Vitaly Churkin, he promised to raise awareness worldwide.  "I want every driver in the world to get the message," said Ban.  "Texting while driving kills."

The secretary general issued a ruling today that prohibits all drivers of UN vehicles worldwide from texting while driving.  That puts the global agency ahead of most local government agencies, transportation departments, cities and states.  Beyond that, we have to wait and see what effects the international photo op has.  "This event will allow me to recommend to Moscow that our legal people visit this issue very seriously," said Churkin.  "This is a new phenomenon in Russia."

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