The federal government will give $2.4 million to Delaware and California to establish pilot programs to kick off the campaign. The plans specifically target cell phone use-both texting and calling-by teenagers and young adults while driving.
"We need to teach kids, who are the most vulnerable drivers, that texting and driving don't mix," LaHood said during a news conference.
Many young drivers say they know texting while driving is dangerous but they still do it. An anonymous national survey conducted last year found that 58 percent of high school seniors said they had texted or emailed while driving during the previous month.
"Distracted driving is a highly preventable behavior in college students who have misplaced confidence in their own driving skills and ability to multitask," said Linda Hill, a clinical professor in the Department of Family and Preventive Medicine at the University of California at San Diego. "Despite the known dangers, distracted driving has become an accepted behavior."
Hill and her team presented a study on April 24 that revealed 78 percent of San Diego-area students admitted to talking or texting while driving. Of those, 50 percent of the students admitted to texting while on the freeway.
Some critics, including The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) would rather see a complete ban on distracting devices-including hands free devices. But LaHood declined to endorse bans on hands-free phones, saying his department wants to conduct a study of drivers' real-world cellphone use first.
Anne Collier, co-director of Connetsafety.org and editor of Netfamilynews.org, blogged on the Christian Science Monitor about young adults who do not see texting and driving as a problem. Collier interviewed teens and revealed that some young drivers feel so tied to their phones that they see driving as a distraction from texting. Even when they know that it's not safe, teens will text while sitting at a red light, or even hold the phone in front of them to see the road while they drive.
"Those comments illustrated for me the challenge we have ahead of us as a society, in changing a highly risky behavior in which some young people (and probably some adults too) seem even to take pride." Collier said.
LaHood believes that getting states to enact and enforce new laws on educating and fining those who text and drive will decrease accidents and save lives.
"Strong laws combined with highly visible police enforcement can significantly reduce dangerous texting and cell phone use behind the wheel," he said.