Distracted driving is still a leading cause of traffic deaths in the U.S. The culprit -- cell phones and other mobile devices that keep driver's eyes off the road.
The U.S. Transportation Department is determined to tackle this growing problem.
A Deadly Addiction
Russell and Kimberly Hurd lost their daughter Heather to a texting driver while she was on her way to meet her wedding planner.
"We were very, very angry," Kimberly Hurd said. "We could not believe that our daughter could be
taken from us by somebody who was texting."
Last year, it was estimated that nearly 5,500 people died and a half of a million were injured as a result of distracted driving.
Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood said texting while driving had become an addiction.
"Don't deny it - you know it's true. We're hooked on it. That's why it's an epidemic. People talk about other distractions in cars. There's no bigger distraction than people on a cell phone, or people texting and driving. There isn't. You can't drive safely doing that," LaHood said.
"Distracted driving is unsafe, irresponsible, and in a split second its consequences can be devastating," he added. "There's no call or e-mail so important that it can't wait."
Gov't Gets Tough on Distracted Driving
On Wednesday, two new laws went into effect to combat distracted driving:
- Commercial bus and truck drivers are now prohibited from sending text messages on the job.
- Train operators are also restricted from using cell phones and mobile devices on duty.
At Tuesday's Second National Distracted Driving Summit, Lahood proposed baring truck drivers from sending texts while hauling hazardous materials.
"We need good laws. We need enforcement. We need public education. But most of all, we need personal responsibility," LaHood said.
The government is treating distracted driving as if it was drunk driving with public service announcements and tough new state laws.
Parents may hold the key to preventing distracted driving. According to a new survey, teens whose parents talk to them about the dangers of texting while driving had a better understanding of its dangers over those
The Hurds say distracted driving must become as unacceptable as drunk driving and hope their tragic story will convince drivers to think twice before texting.
"We want you to turn your cell phone off, because we're living proof that in three or four seconds your entire life can change," Russel Hurd said. "And certainly we'll never be the same again."
*Originally published September 22, 2010.