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Summit Aims to Put the Brakes on Texting While Driving

Text messaging while driving has been found to increase the odds of a crash by 23 times. Now, lawmakers and transportation experts are trying to find a way to stop the dangerous practice. Ray Suarez reports.

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  • JIM LEHRER:

    Next tonight, the dangers of distracted driving and new government warnings about that problem. Ray Suarez has our story.

    TANIA BOURBONNAIS, high performance driving instructor: You should be able to see far enough ahead just by looking over the dash, OK?

  • RAY SUAREZ:

    Tania Bourbonnais is a professional racecar driver and performance driving school instructor, taking 16-year-old Maryland high school students through a test course meant to alert them to the dangers of multitasking behind the wheel.

  • TANIA BOURBONNAIS:

    And I want you to text, "Welcome to RFK Stadium," OK?

  • RAY SUAREZ:

    The student's ability to keep their cars inside the cones is quickly and dramatically diminished by the demands of using a cell phone, or what's commonly referred to as distracted driving. Afterward, the girls each admitted they'd overestimated their driving-while-texting skills.

    ANGELIQUE PAYNE, student driver: I actually did until I tried. And she asked me to text, "Welcome to the stadium," and all I was texting was numbers, so…

  • STUDENT:

    Actually, I did think I was better before, but I guess not.

  • RAY SUAREZ:

    Safety officials from Ford Motor Company, which sponsored the event, say the danger is very real. Louis Tijerina is senior technical specialist with Ford.

    LOUIS TIJERINA, senior technical specialist, Ford Motor Co.: People speed, people tailgate, people weave in and out of traffic, people try to beat the red. Even with all of that, research indicates a 23-fold increase in risk for texting.

  • RAY SUAREZ:

    Conservative estimates say, at any given moment, about a million people are behind the wheel of a moving vehicle and talking on the phone. And of that number, about 1 out of 4 also text. Last year, 6,000 people were killed in accidents linked to distracted driving, and another 500,000 were hurt.

    Those statistics were cited by officials today, as the U.S. Department of Transportation opened a two-day summit on the subject in Washington. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said the problem had reached alarming proportions.

  • RAY LAHOOD, Transportation Secretary:

    Every single time you take your eyes off the road or talk on the phone while you're driving, even for just a few seconds, you put your life in danger, and you put other lives in danger, also.

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