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TMCNet:  Florida Holds First Distracted Driving Summit To Raise Awareness and 'Drive Change'

[November 13, 2012]

Florida Holds First Distracted Driving Summit To Raise Awareness and 'Drive Change'

TAMPA, Fla. --(Business Wire)--

Distracted driving killed nearly 3,100 people and injured another 416,000 nationwide in 2010, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Despite these dangers, surveys estimate that drivers engage in potential accident-causing distractions - like talking with passengers, eating, smoking, manipulating dashboard controls and using a cell phone - 30 percent of the time their vehicles are in motion.

To address those dangerous trends, a consortium of government, business and safety advocates joined forces today in Florida's first-ever Distracted Driving Summit. The event - hosted by USAA in collaboration with the Florida Department of Transportation, Shriners Hospitals for Children® and the Distraction Advocate Network - brought together more than 270 federal, state and local officials, law enforcement agents, traffic safety experts, physicians and a diverse cross-section of businesses to focus on reducing the incidence and impact of distracted driving in the state.

"Across America, the momentum to end distracted driving continues to grow, and today's Florida Distracted Driving Summit is another step in the right direction," said U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood, who delivered the keynote address at the event. "I appreciate and applaud the advocates who are working tirelessly here in Florida to remind drivers to keep their eyes on the road, their hands on the wheel and their focus on driving."

The Florida Department of Transportation announced steps to reduce the number of distracted driving fatalities in the state. A 2012 Strategic Highway Safety Plan (SHSP) was recently signed with other state and agency officials, with a new emphasis on distracted driving. This five-year plan combines the talents of safety stakeholders to strengthen the agency's education, engineering, enforcement and emergency response to make Florida highways safer. Through the SHSP, Florida is developing creative, innovative strategies to drive down fatalities.

"Florida is committed to driving down fatalities on our roadways. Every day and every trip we make, we can make the choice to focus on the road ahead, and that's what we should all be doing," said Florida Department of Transportation Secretary Ananth Prasad. "It starts with each one of us."

During the summit, victims' families shared personal stories, academics discussed the science and research behind the behavior and physicians highlighted the traumatic injuries caused by distracted driving crashes. Also, summit attendees discussed broader aspects of distracted driving, such as how corporations can help address the issue through their own policies and how organizations can best reach teens with relevant messages.

Summit co-host USAA is taking an active role in raising awareness of the dangers of distracted driving by providing advice and guidance that can help protect USAA members and benefit the American public.

"Distracted driving is a widespread problem across the nation," said retired Army Maj. Gen. Kevin Bergner, president, USAA Property and Casualty Insurance Group. "And it will take a concerted effort to educate one another and elevate awareness of the danger it represents on our roads and highways."

The summit marked the first event hosted in part by the new Distraction Advocate Network, established by distracted driving awareness advocate Jennifer Smith, who lost her mother to a distracted driver in 2008.

"We are pleased that this event has brought so many Floridians together to talk about the issue of distracted driving in this state and look forward to continuing efforts to end distracted driving in Florida and nationally," said Smith. "Through my organization, I'm looking forward to continuing to connect the many groups and organizations advocating against distracted driving, so that together we can end distracted driving for good."

Shriners Hospitals for Children led a panel discussion on the types of injuries that can be sustained in motor vehicle crashes and highlighted treatment and care options.

"Motor vehicle collisions are the leading cause of spinal cord injuries," said Dr. Lawrence Vogel, MD, Shriners Hospitals for Children® Chicago. "As a world-leader in pediatric spinal cord injury rehabilitation and management, we are committed to doing our part to prevent injuries and fatalities on the road by promoting safe driving practices through education and awareness efforts."

Additional information on distracted driving may be found at www.distraction.gov.

About USAA

USAA provides insurance, banking, investment and retirement products and services to 9.3 million members of the U.S. military and their families. Known for its legendary commitment to its members, USAA is consistently recognized for outstanding service, employee well-being and financial strength. USAA membership is open to all who are serving or have honorably served our nation in the U.S. military - and their eligible family members. For more information about USAA, or to learn more about membership, visit usaa.com.

About The Florida Department of Transportation

FDOT is committed to providing a safe transportation system that ensures the mobility of people and goods, enhances economic prosperity and preserves the quality of our environment and communities. As a decentralized agency, FDOT consists of seven districts and Florida's Turnpike Enterprise. The department is led by Secretary Ananth Prasad, who manages the $7-billion agency which oversees infrastructure projects that benefit the citizens and businesses of Florida, including port dredging, highway expansion and maintenance projects. For more information, please visit www.dot.state.fl.us.

About Shriners Hospitals for Children®

Shriners Hospitals for Children® is a health care system of 22 hospitals dedicated to improving the lives of children by providing pediatric specialty care, innovative research, and outstanding teaching programs for medical professionals. Children up to age 18 with orthopedic conditions, burns, spinal cord injuries, and cleft lip and palate are eligible for care and receive all services in a family-centered environment, regardless of the patients' ability to pay. For more information, visit www.shrinershospitalsforchildren.org. Find us on Facebook (News - Alert) www.facebook.com/ShrinersHospitalsforChildren; Follow us on Twitter (News - Alert) www.twitter.com/shrinershosp.

About Distraction Advocate Network

Distraction Advocate Network is a grassroots movement empowering organizations, foundations and individuals to generate awareness and recognition to the epidemic known as Distracted Driving. The Distraction Advocate Network engages and supports families affected by distracted driving crashes through state-and-nationwide resources which include shared information, tips, and activities; outreach and media relations; advocacy, legislation and government relations; and a place to join together to support and embrace the shared losses and efforts across the nation. This network will serve as a meeting place to share, learn and collaborate on many levels and generate the change needed to prevent more deaths from distracted driving occurrences. Visit our website: www.distractionadvocatenetwork.org.

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