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October 2, 2009

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American drivers face texting crackdown

TARGETING text messaging behind the wheel in the United States, the Obama administration plans to offer recommendations to address the growing traffic safety risk of distracted driving and the use of mobile devices by multi-tasking drivers.

Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, declining to provide specifics, said the administration's "priority now is to really deal with distracted driving as it relates to texting. We can really eliminate texting while driving. That should be our goal."

Researchers, safety groups, automakers and lawmakers gathered on Wednesday and yesterday to discuss the perils of distracted driving, hearing sobering data from the government that underscored the safety threat as more motorists stay connected with cell phones and mobile devices.

The Transportation Department reported that nearly 6,000 people were killed and about 500,000 injured last year in vehicle crashes connected to driver distraction, often by mobile devices and cell phones.

LaHood called distracted driving a "menace to society" and said the administration would offer a series of recommendations to the meeting to courage Congress, state governments and the public to curb the unsafe driving behavior.

Democrat senators Chuck Schumer and Amy Klobuchar said support was building in Congress to ban text messaging by drivers. Their legislation would require states to ban texting or E-mailing while operating a moving vehicle or lose 25 percent of their annual federal highway funding.


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