That's one of the reasons the U.S. Transportation Department decided to produce a series of videos called "Faces of Distraction." The name instantly brings to mind the "Faces of Death" series that was a viral sensation at one time; it's unclear whether they were going for such grim associations, but U.S. Transportation Secretary LaHood is clearly aiming to give drivers a wake-up call.
"Behind these numbers are children, parents, neighbors, and friends," said LaHood in a video release. "Their families torn apart by senseless, preventable crashes.
According to federal statistics—which tend to be conservative as many local and state police agencies were somewhat inconsistent until recently in how they identified the signs of distraction—nearly 5,500 people were killed and about a half a million more were injured in 2009 due to distracted driving.
In each case, the video clips and accounts serve to show that these distracted-driving crashes were entirely preventable—had the driver only decided to put their phone down and focus on the act of driving.
- Laurie Heiver talks about her mother Julie Davis's death; she had pulled over on the side of the road and stepped out of her vehicle for a hike, and a 19-year-old distracted driver hit her at 70 mph. The driver was only cited for inattentive driving, a $173.40 fine.
- Margay Sehee, a 13-year-old, was on the bus that was rear-ended by a semi traveling 60 mph. The driver says he never saw the school bus, and was talking on a cellphone at the time.
- Ashley Johnson, 16, was on her way to a tutoring job and hit a truck head-on while retrieving a text message.
LaHood tells drivers to put the cellphone in the glove compartment and buckle up.
U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood has taken distracted driving as his crusade, hosting two summits now concerning the dangers and pushing for consumer education as well as consistent state enforcement.