Four decades ago, when Lyndon Johnson signed the order to create the Department of Transportation, it read, "The Secretary should give top priority to the safety of our people as they travel by land, sea, or air."
Today, that statement remains truer than ever -- especially when it comes to distracted driving.
We've made remarkable progress since we set ending distracted driving as a priority at DOT. Under the leadership of Secretary LaHood, the number of states with distraction laws has doubled, and it's no coincidence that today, distracted driving is a household term.
But we all know that we have more work to do. Just as distracted driving was a priority under Secretary LaHood, it will receive my full efforts, as well.
In fact, this morning, I met with leaders from nearly two dozen organizations, all of whom are working with us to end distracted driving.
It was the first of what I hope will be many discussions on how we can make more progress in this effort, and I thought it made sense to start with the folks who have partnered with us from the beginning. We talked about a range of new ideas and approaches organized around awareness and education, laws and enforcement, and research and technology.
It was an inspiring meeting --not just to see the passion that everyone brings to the table to end distraction-- but to hear about the variety of efforts already underway in this fight. As Secretary LaHood would say, distracted driving is an epidemic, so it makes sense to approach the problem from different angles, whether that's spreading the word through Facebook, teaching teens to serve as safe driving ambassadors among their friends, or developing an app that allows you to stop receiving texts and phone calls while driving.
Make no mistake, at DOT, we welcome breakthrough advancements in our vehicles. In fact, our connected car research could help reduce 4 out of every 5 crashes on the road today. But we also want to ensure they don't lead to unwelcome new distractions. And, on that score, NHTSA has already taken a lead role in offering guidance to the auto industry. There are more pilot programs in the works now and more results being analyzed. We're also working on the next round of distraction guidelines.
Of course, all of this --moving public opinion and public policy, changing driver behavior, and safeguarding technology-- is an enormous challenge. Change of this magnitude certainly isn't achieved overnight.
As I wrote recently, ending distracted driving isn't a sprint; it's a marathon. And my hope is that with continued effort, and more productive meetings like the one I held today, we can move forward towards the next mile marker.
Beyond it lays the finish line --a truly safe, distraction-free transportation system-- and I know we can get there.