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Farley to serve as expert panelist at D.C. distracted driving summit

House Democratic Policy Leader Steve Farley, of Tucson, will serve as a panel expert during a Distracted Driving Summit in Washington, D.C., on Oct. 1.

The U.S. Department of Transportation sponsors the two-day summit, and invited Farley to participate as one of 200 safety experts, researchers, elected officials and members of the public who will share experiences and develop ways to reduce distracted driving.

He will sit on a panel focusing on “legislation, regulation and enforcement of distracted driving.”

Farley was one of the first legislators in the country to propose legislation to ban texting while driving, and one of the few to promote it in Arizona. He has introduced three similar bills, but all failed. Tucson Republican Sen. Al Melvin introduced a state ban on texting while driving during the 2009 session, which also failed. But Farley’s efforts are credited with helping him gain national recognition.

Farley said he focused his efforts on banning texting because research is continuing to confirm that nothing else is nearly as distracting. He cited a study from the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute, which videotaped truck drivers for 18 months. They found that texting while driving increased the chance of a serious accident by 2,300 percent.

He initially decided to introduce a bill to the House after reading about bad accidents involving texting in 2006.

He even had his own experiencing, recalling being tempted to utilize his smart phone to get some work done on the two-hour drive between his district and the state Capitol, he said.

“It’s powerfully addictive,” Farley said. “It gets you in a different state.”

Farley said he is honored to be on the panel and hopes that the momentum from the summit will move legislation against distracted driving, particularly banning texting while driving, quickly through Congress.

The summit will be broadcast live on the web at http://www.tvworldwide.com/events/rita/090830/

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