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"Orange Cones. No Phones." Media Event, Tysons Corner, Virginia
Deborah A. P. Hersman
"Orange Cones. No Phones." Media Event, Tysons Corner, Virginia

Thank you, Tim (Steinhilber), for that warm introduction. And, thanks to all the representatives from Transurban and Fluor, the private partners of the Virginia Department of Transportation on the 495 Express Lanes Project and founders of this important safety campaign "Orange Cones. No Phones."

It's great to be here during National Distracted Driving Awareness Month with so many community and industry leaders to address this growing national safety issue.

Last month, the NTSB held a forum on attentive driving because it's time to move beyond distraction. It's time to put attention back in the driver's seat - at all times, but, as we highlight today, especially when driving in construction zones.

These are busy stretches of roadways that require drivers' undivided attention - for their own safety and for the safety of other drivers, passengers, and construction workers.

Lon Anderson and Triple-A Mid-Atlantic have been important partners in identifying the dangers of talking and texting behind the wheel, their surveys have underscored the importance of the need for a campaign like "Orange Cones. No Phones."

At the NTSB, we have a zero tolerance policy when it comes to distraction behind the wheel. Last December, we issued our strongest recommendation yet on this subject: We called for every state and the District of Columbia to ban the nonemergency use of portable electronic devices for all drivers.

We did not come to this recommendation lightly. Our journey on this road to greater safety started at least 10 years ago with an investigation of a crash on the Capital Beltway in Largo, Maryland. In February 2002, a novice driver, distracted by a cell-phone, veered off the highway, crossed the median, flipped over. That accident resulted in five fatalities.

In the years that followed, we investigated crashes involving distracted bus drivers, distracted truck drivers, and in 2010, we investigated a crash involving a distracted pickup driver. That crash occurred in a work zone in Gray Summit, Missouri, and it involved a texting driver who ran into a bobtail tractor-trailer and set off a series of collisions involving two school buses that killed two and injured 38.

Following that accident, we recommended the nationwide ban of PEDs behind the wheel and we also urged using targeted communication campaigns to inform motorists of new laws and high-visibility enforcement to support these bans.

Yes, distraction, whether it's hands-free or handheld, whether it's texting or talking, can have deadly consequences.

I've said this before, and it bears repeating: No call, no text, no update is worth a human life. And, that is exactly why we are all here today supporting "Orange Cones. No Phones."

I understand that over the past three years, your message has reached millions of people in the region.

Education is essential, but enforcement through the support of the Virginia State Police and the Fairfax County Police, is critical to the success of the campaign.

The officers here in Fairfax County are safety leaders, not just through their daily presence in local work zone areas, but through their use of an innovative local ordinance, they are pulling over drivers for cell phone use and other types of distractions as a primary offense.

Fairfax County's approach is a model for other local jurisdictions.

At this time, I would like to honor their work by calling on Captain Susan Culin from the Fairfax County Police Department and Captain Michael Spivey from the Virginia State Police, to please come up and receive this special recognition award for your work to keep the 495 Express Lanes work zone safe.

Present award

Now, it is my pleasure to introduce the Honorable Sean Connaughton, Virginia's Secretary of Transportation.