US transportation Secretary Ray LaHood has launched the “Faces of Distracted Driving”, an online video series detailing the tragic consequences of texting and cell phone use while driving

Over 5,500 people died, and over 500,000 people were involved in accidents  in 2009 that involved a distracted driver.

“These videos are dramatic evidence that the lives lost to America’s distracted driving epidemic aren’t statistics. They’re children, parents, neighbours, and friends,” said LaHood. “These people have courageously come forward to share their personal tragedies in order to warn others against making the dangerous decision to talk or text behind the wheel.”

The U.S. Department of Transportation is encouraging others who would like to share their experiences with distracted driving to post videos on YouTube and email the links to: [email protected].

“Faces of Distracted Driving” is part of LaHood’s effort to raise public awareness about the dangers of distracted driving and to support victims.

Elissa Schee’s 13-year-old daughter Margay was killed in 2008 when a semi-truck crashed into the back of her school bus in Citra, Florida. The truck driver was talking on his cell phone at the time of the crash and said he never saw the bus.

Earlier this year, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration issued a regulation banning text messaging while operating a commercial motor vehicle . A rulemaking proposed by the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration would expand the texting ban to certain drivers carrying hazardous materials that are not covered by the FMCSA regulation.

Also see this FMCSA release about legislation restricting the use of ‘distracting electronic devices’ for commercial drivers.