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Public Service Matters: Creating Safer Highways for West Virginians


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Everyone in our state knows how difficult and sometimes dangerous it can be to drive our winding roads. Most accidents can be avoided with responsible driving practices and safe speeds. And we all rely on other drivers and on our own cars to help keep us safe.

Underpinning each of those things are good public policies that can reduce the number of crashes and protect drivers and victims of vehicle accidents.

Vehicle safety has long been one of my top priorities as Chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee, which is responsible for safety across our transportation system. In the past two years, we have taken concrete steps to make our cars, trucks, and roads safer and more efficient.

Last spring, I worked with my colleagues to pass the highway transportation bill that will create jobs in West Virginia, make smart investments in our national infrastructure, and put a premium on driver and vehicle safety.

The recent statistics on highway safety are startling: 3,000 people died in 2010 in entirely avoidable accidents that were caused by distracted drivers -- accidents that can and should be prevented. And large trucks continue to be the source of far too many casualties, with more than 3,000 lives lost each year.

The highway bill was enacted after a long and difficult conference between the House and the Senate where I was a conferee. In the end, we were able to maintain important funding for states to conduct highway safety programs, include legislation I first introduced in 2009 to combat distracted driving, require an update to child safety standards for vehicles, and require a number of new safety improvements to trucks and buses.

And even though no major conference ends with everything all sides wanted, we reached a policy that brings our country into the 21st century with crucial programs to promote safety.

Protecting consumers and saving lives are not partisan issues. Congress showed in the last year that we can come together to pass public policy that makes a real difference in people's lives.

As the 113th Congress begins, we will continue to oversee the implementation of the highway law and work on new programs to fight distracted driving. And I will continue doing everything in my power to make our highways and transportation systems safer.

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