U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said he supports and encourages a federal ban on texting and driving and the use of any handheld device while driving. LaHood made the comments during a speech at a distracted-driving summit in San Antonio, Texas, this week. He called distracted driving in the U.S. an “epidemic” and said a federal ban was on every roadway in America was the only way to protect public safety from the scourge of distracted driving.

The conference was sponsored by insurance giant USAA, the Texas Department of Transportation and Shriners Hospitals for Children.

It is interesting, and perhaps not a coincidence, that LaHood made his comments at a conference in Texas, seeing as how legislators there have made it clear that even a statewide ban on distracted driving is too much of an infringement on civil liberties, opting instead to allow municipalities to take whatever steps they deem necessary in their communities.

In the meantime, public and private agencies are denouncing distracted driving as the number one cause of fatal crashes in the United States. This past December the National Transportation Safety Board released a report which showed that distracted driving was already causing more fatal vehicle crashes than driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol, and that the incidence of distracted driving crashes has increased drastically the past few years and is showing no signs of abating.

According to the NTSB, there were 3,000 fatal crashes last year caused by distracted driving. All of which could be prevented if people simply put down their handheld devices and focused their attention instead on the skill of driving defensively. Unlike drunk drivers whose cognitive skills are diminished by alcohol and therefore, by definition, are not thinking clearly, distracted drivers have no reason to be taking their eyes off the road or doing anything except paying attention to the road ahead.