Nothing gives you a new perspective on life like raising children. Mine have made me look at almost everything in a new light, including technology. As the father of two young kids, I know the invaluable role that technology plays in keeping families close.
It helps keep us close when I'm traveling -- I can call to hear about their day, and I even maintain a running game of Words with Friends with my daughter (she lets me win). But here's what I also know: As much as mobile devices can keep families connected, there is one place where they can disconnect families permanently.
And that's on the road.
Our children are years away from driving, but my wife and I are teaching them now about the dangers of distracted driving. Much like earlier generations learned to click it or ticket while they still sat in the back seat, we can help end distracted driving by teaching younger children what to do before they get their first keys -- or first smartphone.
I try to set that example for my children every day. But I'm also fortunate to make a difference in another way -- through my work as Secretary of Transportation.
Over the past five years, the Department of Transportation has made enormous progress raising awareness around the dangers of distracted driving. Under the leadership of Secretary LaHood, the number of states with distraction laws doubled and distracted driving is now a household term. The Department accomplished this in record time, thanks in part to the lessons we've learned from seatbelts, which took decades to achieve similar progress.
I am committed to building on the progress that the Department made, because we know there's still more work to do -- and often, it's the last mile that proves to be the most challenging. To use seatbelts as an example again -- while we've achieved record seatbelt use, with 86 percent of passengers and drivers buckling up last year, the last 14 percent has proved particularly difficult to reach.
There are many groups representing a wealth of resources working hard to end distraction, but it will take all of us working together to finish the final mile. That's why I'm convening a meeting of our most active stakeholders to discuss the challenges that still remain and the strategies we can pursue to address them.
In the coming weeks, I will sit down with our partners to identify ways we can work together on the kind of targeted efforts it will take to truly end distraction. From supporting new laws and educating new drivers to increasing enforcement and emphasizing the social costs, our efforts have taken us far. We've made so much progress reducing distracted driving in such a short time. But this effort was never supposed to be -- and cannot be -- a sprint. It's a marathon. And like a marathon, the last mile is always the hardest -- but it's also the most rewarding.
This post is part of a series produced by The Huffington Post and the Harvard School of Public Health in an effort to call more attention to the dangers of texting while driving. Distracted driving is the cause of 350,000 crashes per year, and the series will be putting a spotlight on efforts being made to combat the crisis by the public and private sectors and the academic and nonprofit worlds. In addition to original reporting on the subject, we'll feature at least one post a day every weekday in November. To see all the posts in the series, click here; for more information on the national effort, click here.
And if you'd like to share your story or observation, please send us your 500-850-word post to impactblogs@huffingtonpost.