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Distracted Driving Summit Discusses Increase in Cell Phone Related Fatalities

            The second annual Distracted Driving Summit, hosted by the US Department of Transportation, in Washington, D.C. centered around the recently published federal statistics that found that nearly 5,500 people died in 2009 in cell-phone related car accidents and 450,000 others were injured (Hastings). However, Secretary Ray LaHood believes this to be just "the tip of the iceberg" because using the cell phone while driving has only recently been outlawed in some states, and previously law enforcement officials were not required to ask whether a driver had been on the phone during an accident. The US Fatality Accident Reporting database, combined with data from Wilson and Stimpson and adjusted for climate, state demographics, and other factors, found that distracted driving fatalities would have decreased from 4,611 to 1,925 per year from 2001 to 2007 had texting not existed. Because of its existence, fatalities actually increased to 5,870 in 2008 (Hanes). LaHood referred to the recent onslaught of fatalities caused by cell phones as "an epidemic. It's an epidemic because everyone has a cellphone - and everyone thinks they can use it while driving. They can't" (Hanes). Although distracted driving covers anything from talking on a cell phone to eating in the car, cell phone usage most likely tops the charts. .
             Many celebrities have adopted strong anti-cell phone usage campaigns to reiterate the message to the public. Oprah Winfrey and Jordin Sparks, an American Idol winner, are just two names who have joined in these campaigns (Hanes). President Obama himself has strongly urged drivers to stop using cell phones while driving. The transportation department banned commercial bus and truck drivers from texting on the job. They also banned train conductors from using cell phones on duty. To follow that up, Obama has proposed prohibiting truck drivers from texting while hauling hazardous materials Last year, he instated an executive order that stopped federal employees from texting while driving government cars (Hastings).

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