In a letter to the New York Times, American Society of Safety Engineers (ASSE) President C. Christopher Patton, CSP, stated:

“The American Society of Safety Engineers is troubled to read in the July 21 New York Times article titled ‘U.S. Withheld Data Showing Driving Risk’ that key information on the dangers of distracted driving, which may have prevented roadway crashes, fatalities and injuries, may have been suppressed in 2003 by the U.S. Department of Transportation in order to avoid ‘angering Congress.’

As a 98-year-old organization representing more than 32,000 occupational safety, health and environmental professionals committed to protecting people, property and the environment, we are continually concerned about all workplace injuries, especially roadway incidents as they continue to be the number one cause of on-the-job deaths.

We are disappointed to learn that the agency reportedly avoided an opportunity to address the real safety risk distracted driving has on Americans using our roadways every day, including those that are on the road as part of their job. In 2007, 40 percent of on-the-job injuries in the U.S. were due to transportation incidents.

As with the decisions our members make each day to help employers keep workplaces safe and healthy for workers, decisions on whether to take legislative or regulatory steps to address a safety risk on our roadways must be based on the best possible scientific knowledge. If research is suppressed, good decision-making cannot be made.

ASSE urges the Administration and Congress to take the necessary steps to ensure that all research relevant to the safety and health of Americans cannot be arbitrarily withheld from public examination so its value can be determined through scientific debate.

We applaud the New York Times for providing the ‘Driven to Distraction’ series and Matt Richtel’s reporting, as it raises awareness about the risks on the road and how they can be prevented.”