Transportation Department Takes Aim at Distracted Driving 'Epidemic'

The Department of Transportation to spend $2.4 million to curb cell phone use while driving nationwide.

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The Department of Transportation will spend another $2.4 million to combat cell phone use while driving, Transportation secretary Ray LaHood announced today. The department also issued a detailed plan pressing for states to pass laws and the auto industry to adopt technology to reduce distracted driving nationwide.

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The "Blueprint for Ending Distracting Driving" and the department's "Phone in One Hand, Ticket in the Other" enforcement program are the latest actions aimed at what LaHood called an "epidemic" of distracted driving, which is responsible for 3,000 deaths annually—with teens and young drivers being at particularly high risk.

The $2.4 million layout will expand the pilot program "Phone in One Hand, Ticket in the Other" to California and Delaware in the fall. The program will examine whether "increased police enforcement coupled with paid media and news media coverage can significantly reduce distracted driving over a widespread area."

Earlier attempts by Transportation to deal with distracted driving resulted in as much as a 72 percent decrease, according to the department.

Currently 39 states and District Columbia ban texting while driving and ten states plus the District ban all hand-held cell phone use while driving.

According to the department, 49 percent of drivers aged 21 through 24 send text messages or emails while driving. It estimates sending or receiving a text takes a driver's eyes from the road for an average of four to six seconds, which, at 55 miles per hour, is the equivalent of driving the length of a football field blind.

Seth Cline is a reporter at US News and World Report. You can contact him at scline@usnews.com or follow him on Twitter