Last week, the 2010 Pulitzer Prize in Journalism for national reporting was awarded to Matt Richtel and members of The New York Times staff for their July 18, 2009, front page story that highlighted research study results from the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute.

The article, which Pulitzer judges noted as “incisive work, in print and online, on the hazardous use of cell phones, computers, and other devices while operating cars and trucks, stimulating widespread efforts to curb distracted driving,” was based on several large-scale, naturalistic driving studies using cameras and instrumentation in participants' personal vehicles conducted at the Virginia Tech research center.

The Virginia Tech Transportation Institute has completed several large-scale naturalistic studies over the past several years to provide a clear picture of driver distraction, cell phone use, and general driving behavior under real-world driving conditions. The results of the most recent research study released in July 2009 garnered wide-spread national and international attention.

Within a few weeks of the 2009 release of the university’s research study results, U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood announced a distracted driving summit to bring national attention to the growing problem of cell phone use and texting while driving. Many others have since initiated “no-texting” campaigns to increase awareness of this deadly secondary driving task.

The Virginia Tech Transportation Institute is the leader in naturalistic driving research having pioneered the first-ever study of its kind, the 100-Car Study, completed in 2006. The research institute continues to conduct naturalistic driving research and closed, text-track transportation safety research on the Virginia Smart Road located in Blacksburg with the ultimate goal of increasing awareness, making a difference, and saving lives.

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