U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, was keynote speaker at the Summit where leaders in transportation, policy, law enforcement and science discussed how to reduce motor-vehicle crashes resulting from distracted driving through legislation, enforcement, public awareness and education.

November 30, 2009

• Alabama Distracted Driving Summit set for Dec. 3

• Scheduled appearance by U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood

• Distracted driving is a major safety issue on American roadways

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. - Distracted driving caused by cell phones, texting or use of other technologies is epidemic, according to officials at the University of Alabama at Birmingham University Transportation Center (UAB UTC). UAB will host the state's first distracted driving summit Dec. 3 to bring together leaders in transportation, policy, law enforcement and science to discuss how to reduce motor-vehicle crashes resulting from distracted driving through legislation, enforcement, public awareness and education.

The Alabama Distracted Driving Summit will begin at 7 a.m. Thursday, Dec. 3 in the Doubletree Hotel, 808 20th Street South.

The summit follows a national meeting called by U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood in September, attended by Russ Fine, Ph.D., director of the UAB UTC, and Despina Stavrinos, Ph.D., a post-doctoral fellow and co-organizer of the Alabama summit. LaHood is the keynote speaker at the Alabama summit and will speak at 7:20 a.m.

An estimated 800,000 vehicles were driven by someone using a cell phone in 2008, according to statistics gathered by the U.S. Department of Transportation. Six thousand people died in distracted-driving-related vehicle crashes, and 500,000 were injured.

"The purpose of the summit is make the public aware of an issue that is responsible for an increasing number of motor-vehicle crashes, injuries and deaths in Alabama and the nation," said Stavrinos. "It will provide a forum for exchanging information and ideas so measures to prevent and reduce the growing number of crashes, injuries and deaths resulting from distracted driving can be identified and implemented."

Leading figures in the field of transportation safety from around the state and nation will make brief presentations and be part of interactive panel discussions. Key topics will include examining the extent and impact of distracted driving, current research, regulations and best practices to reduce distracted driving.

Speakers will include John D. Lee, Ph.D., professor of industrial and systems engineering at the University of Wisconsin, Madison; Richard J. Hanowski, Ph.D., director of the Center for Truck and Bus Safety at the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute; and Melvin Davis, Ph.D. executive director of the Mississippi Urban Research Center.

Lee is the co-editor of a new book on distracted driving, Driver Distraction: Theory, Effects, and Mitigation, and his research focuses on the safety and acceptance of complex human-machine systems by considering how technology mediates attention. Specific research interests include trust in technology, advanced driver-assistance systems and driver distraction.

Hanowski's research expertise is in transportation human factors with both heavy and light vehicles, laboratory and field testing, real-time automobile and heavy vehicle simulation, advanced system development and testing, design guideline development and human performance evaluation.

Davis will present evidence that distracted driving is an issue that crosses racial and socio-economic lines and affects all Americans.  

Other participants include - Jay Lindly, Ph.D., and Dan Turner, Ph.D. of the University Transportation Center for Alabama; Dee Fine, former national vice president of MADD; Ginny MacDonald, Birmingham News; Clay Ingram, Alabama AAA; Fred Gray, J.D.,  Alabama PTA; Gene Vonderau, Alabama Trucking Association; Bill King, Dr.PH.,  Southeast Child Safety Institute; Col. Chris Murphy, Alabama Department of Public Safety; Terry Henderson, Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs; Sen. Jabo Waggoner, R-Vestavia Hills; and Jim McClendon, O.D., R-Springville.

The summit is co-sponsored by the UAB University Transportation Center, part of the UAB Injury Control and Research Center, and the University Transportation Center for Alabama.

About the UAB UTC

The UAB University Transportation Center focuses on traffic safety and injury control. Along with the UAB Injury Control Research Center it works to help the nation achieve a significant reduction in the rate of transportation-related injuries, deaths and disabilities, especially in the Southeast United States.