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With the advent of safer cars, airbags and mandatory seatbelts one would think that we are progressing toward safer roadways. Technology, however, is bringing about a new and very real danger: distracted driving.

Distracted driving can take many forms including traditional ones like eating in the car or screaming kids. Now, with the proliferation of modern communication devices we have the added danger of not just talking on the phone but also texting while driving.

At a two day summit that began today in Washington D.C., the Transportation Department is tackling the issue of distracted drivers and how the traffic laws should be reformed to stop the dangers of driving and texting. The forum will include various speakers who have knowledge on the dangers of holding a steering wheel in one hand and typing on a PDA in the other. One of the speakers is a teenage driver from Utah who crashed his vehicle while texting and killed two other people.

The statistics on automobile accidents caused by texting and driving are not clear because most drivers do not willingly offer that they were using a communication device when in a crash. Most Traffic Crash Reports do not even have a field or box where the investigating officer can routinely inquire about the use of a cell phone at the time of the crash. At a minimum the investigating officer at the time of a crash should obtain the cell phone data including phone number of the at fault driver to permit easier investigation into the possibility of texting or phone use being a contributing factor to the crash.

Technology could also come to the rescue to prevent distracted driving. Most parents want their teens to have cell phones but are worried about the use during driving. There now exist GPS devices that block the receipt of emails and texts into a PDA while a vehicle is moving. The products hold the receipt of the message until after the vehicle is stopped. This technology should be offered as an easy option for any parent to purchase for their children. While it will not stop all distractions and can keep the hands on the wheel and away from the keyboard.

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