LaHood promised to bring together "senior transportation officials, elected officials, safety advocates, law enforcement representatives and academics" in Washington next month to discuss the problems raised by "text messaging and other distractions behind the wheel" and to explore possible solutions. The goal will be to come up with "concrete steps" that can be taken to reduce the distracted-driving problem.
"Distracted driving," in this context, is pretty clearly code for "texting while driving." The press release for the event focuses heavily on the dangers of texting; several major accidents caused by texting get a mention, while no other potentially distracting activities are specifically named. The newly-launched home page for the summit also seems focused on the texting wihle driving question. It's not clear whether the Department of Transportation is willing to use this summit to take on other causes of driver distraction, like the use of cell phones, which in the span of barely a decade has become an entrenched American habit. An anti-cell-phone stance taken by the administration would no doubt be deeply unpopular.
But a growing consciousness of the dangers of texting while driving, spurred by a recent spate of high-profile accidents (see list below), might at least provide an opportunity to address this dangerous behavior early on.
A final note: you can actually get updates about the Distracted Driving Summit via Twitter. We'll go ahead and assume that the DOT prefers that you refrain from reading those tweets while driving.