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Distracted Driving Campaign

Under the leadership of U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood, the Department of Transportation launched an aggressive national campaign in 2009 to end the dangerous practice of distracted driving, and specifically texting and cell phone use behind the wheel. Today, 39 states, D.C., Guam, and the Virgin Islands ban texting while driving, and 10 states, D.C., Guam, and the Virgin Islands ban all hand-held cell phone use behind the wheel. 

Raising Public Awareness.  Secretary LaHood and the U.S. Department of Transportation launched a dedicated website,, and hosted two national distracted driving summits in 2009 and 2010 to raise awareness among the public and the media about the dangers of texting and cell phone use behind the wheel.  In 2010, Secretary LaHood launched “Faces of Distracted Driving,” a video series exploring the tragic consequences of texting and cell phone use behind the wheel by sharing the stories of people from across the country who have been injured or lost loved ones in distracted driving crashes. In 2012, DOT released a "Blueprint for Ending Distracted Driving," which lays out a plan for building on the progress DOT has made to date and arms safety partners, advocates, and community leaders with clear, forward-thinking strategies for continuing the fight to end distracted driving.  DOT has also partnered with organizations including State Farm, Allstate, the Ad Council, the FOX television show “Glee”, Walt Disney Corporation, National Organizations for Youth Safety (NOYS), Consumer Reports, ESPN, the Better Business Bureau, Regal Cinemas, and others to highlight the dangers of distracted driving.

Providing Leadership.  In February 2012, DOT proposed a set of guidelines to automakers that would reduce the risk of distraction from electronic systems in vehicles.  These voluntary guidelines, the first of their kind, include recommendations to reduce task complexity and limit the amount of time drivers must divert their eyes or take a hand off the wheel to operate an in-vehicle electronic device.

Encouraging Enforcement.  In April 2010, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) launched the "Phone in One Hand, Ticket in the Other" enforcement program in Hartford, Connecticut, and Syracuse, New York.  The pilot campaigns were the first in the country to test whether increased law enforcement efforts combined with public service announcements could get distracted drivers to put their cell phones down and focus on the road. Following four enforcement waves in both cities, the results revealed that distracted driving incidents dramatically decreased if existing laws banning texting and handheld cell phone use were properly enforced. Following the success of the Hartford and Syracuse pilots, DOT announced federal support for the expansion of the program to Sacramento, California and the state of Delaware in 2012.  DOT also announced a new program in 2012, authorized by Congress under the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act (MAP-21), that will provide grants to states with laws banning distracted driving.

Conducting Research.  In 2011, NHTSA unveiled a new measure for fatalities related to distracted driving, called “distraction-affected crashes.”  Introduced as a way to get better information about the role of distraction in crashes, the new measure focuses more narrowly on crashes in which a driver was most likely to have been distracted.  While NHTSA’s Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS) previously recorded a broad range of potential distractions, the new measure focuses on distractions that are most likely to affect crash involvement, such as distraction by dialing a cell phone or texting or by an outside person or event. Using this refined methodology, new data shows that an estimated 3,331 people were killed in distraction-affected crashes in 2011.

Enacting Regulations.  In conjunction with the launch of DOT's national campaign to raise awareness about the dangers of distracted driving, President Obama signed an Executive Order in 2009 banning four million federal employees from text messaging while driving government-owned vehicles, while driving privately owned vehicles when they’re on official government business, and when using electronic equipment supplied by the government while driving.  Building on the President’s commitment, DOT launched a multi-modal regulatory campaign against distracted driving that banned all hand-held cell phone use by commercial drivers and banned texting on electronic devices by drivers operating a motor vehicle containing hazardous materials.