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Special Event

Network of Employers for Traffic Safety Discusses Danger of Distracted Driving

Aired June 27, 2000 - 11:12 a.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

DARYN KAGAN, CNN ANCHOR: We want to take you live to Washington, D.C. We're listening to Mark Edwards of AAA speak. The topic: distracted drivers. AAA and the Network of Employers For Traffic Safety estimate that 25-50 percent of traffic accidents are caused by distracted drivers.

Let's listen in:

(JOINED IN PROGRESS)

MARK EDWARDS, AAA: ... of removing your eyes from the road. And the research shows that when we give people these kinds of thinking tasks, their performance behind the wheel does indeed go downhill. And that's the reason for this training program. We think the way to solve this problem is to raise the public's awareness of the issue. When we asked them if we thought it was a big deal, it came out fourth on their list with respect to highway safety issues that they were concerned about.

It's kind of interesting that they thought it was worse than red- light running, which is something, you know, we all pretty much pay attention to. But we think we need to raise the public's awareness to get them to recognize that they're doing these things without thinking. And we think, through this training program, we need to give them some very simple skills that they can use to manage distractions while they are driving.

We kind of try to like to pass on three tips, you know: Don't do it unless you have to behind the wheel. If you are going to do it, keep it short and sweet. And pick the time when you do it. You know, taking a sip from your coffee cup at the same time you are trying to put on your turn signal to change lanes on Route 66 in rush hour traffic is not the time to be taking a sip of coffee. And we think if we can get -- if we can teach drivers to do these three simple things, it will go a long way towards improving safety on the road.

And with that, I'd like to introduce someone who's going to actually do something about it. We've done the research and produced the training program, and we're looking to Linda Cropp to actually do something about it. And she's going to share the District's program with us now.

Thank you very much. LINDA CROPP, D.C. CITY COUNCIL: Thank you so very much. Let me say good morning to each of you. It is indeed a pleasure for me to be here with you.

This whole initiative came about as we were looking at ways to have safer driving in the District of Columbia. And quite frankly, when we looked at one issue, we thought that would be the thing that would change it, and that was talking on the cell phones. To our surprise, as we looked more into the issue, that was not the primary cause for distracted driving. And in fact, there were many other issues that were there.

When you look at the District of Columbia -- and our number one business happens to be tourism -- and we have people coming in and out of the city constantly. When you look at every day in the District of Columbia with regard to the workforce, and we are -- our population during daytime hours increases threefold, tri-fold, by people coming in and out of the city. This city has been known as being stress- related. We have known where individuals could be distracted from what they were doing.

So, as we looked at the issue of driver safety, it became clearer and clearer that we needed to go beyond just the use of cell phones, that there were other things, reading of reports, putting on makeup, taking care of the children, seeing about the dog, a lot of things went in to distracted driving. The other thing that is also extremely clear is that sometimes we can make laws that will impact things and change things. And other times, perhaps there is a need for an educational program.

The District is leading the nation in one of the toughest laws with regard to seatbelt usage. And that is very clear that that will make a big difference with regard to safe driving. The other thing that is clear that sometimes, many times, education is power. And often we do these things and we are not even aware of the consequences. I suspect that many of us in this room now have been guilty of doing one or the other, either reading, or putting makeup on, or doing something that would distract us momentarily from our task at hand of driving.

The combination of time, stress commuters, and the demanding work, and personal lives tempt drivers to do multi-task driving, more things, more than one thing at one time. The nation's capital is regularly cited by AAA as the top five vacation destination; thus, our congested streets. And also, they're traveled everyday by the thousands of visitors who are also unfamiliar with the roads and traffic conditions, and often looking at maps. In this area, we tend to have roads that go one way at one time of the day, and then all of a sudden it will switch to another direction at another time of the day...

KAGAN: We've been listening to a group called the Network of Employers for Traffic Safety. They are talking about something that many of us are guilty of. It is called distracted driving. It might be your cell phone. It might be a number of other things. Interestingly enough, they believe that 25-50 percent of accidents on our streets and highways are caused by distracted driving.

And they give a couple tips. One, don't do that extra activity. If you have to, keep it short and pick your right time when to do it when you're not in a very dangerous driving situation. Good tips we could all take.

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