Fight Against Distracted Driving Goes Global
May 19, 2010
U.N. and international officials met at the United Nations headquarters in New York Wednesday to launch a global effort to address distracted driving.
From left to right are Jennifer Smith, president of FocusDriven; DOT Secretary Ray LaHood; U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon; Susan Rice, U.S. ambassador; and Vitaly Churkin, Russian ambassador.(Photo courtesy of the United Nations)
U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon was joined by U.S. Ambassador Susan Rice, U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, Russian Ambassador Vitaly Churkin and Jennifer Smith, president of FocusDriven, a victims' advocacy organization based in the U.S.
Research has shown that distracted driving is about four times as likely to be involved in a crash, and drivers who are texting are more than 20 times more likely to crash than non-distracted drivers.
Ban issued a directive to more than 40,000 United Nations staff, barring employees from texting behind the wheel while driving U.N.-owned vehicles. Similarly, President Obama signed an Executive Order last fall prohibiting nearly 4 million U.S. government employees from texting while operating government-owned cell phones, vehicles or while on official business.
The State Department has asked its U.S. embassies around the world to raise awareness about distracted driving, as well as to collect data about distracted driving from other governments.
"Distracted driving isn't just a deadly epidemic in the U.S. - it's a threat around the world," said LaHood. "We believe our nations can do more to stop distracted driving if we work together. The Obama Administration stands ready to work with other countries so that we can put an end to dangerous driving behaviors and make the world's roads safer for everyone."
Many other governments are also moving to put an end to distracted driving. To date, 32 countries - including Russia, Brazil, France, Japan, Jordan, Spain, Taiwan, and the United Kingdom - have passed laws that restrict drivers' use of handheld devices. Portugal has outlawed all phone use - handheld or hands-free - in the driver's seat.
Smith, who founded the first anti-distracted driving victims' advocacy organization in the U.S., was on hand for the announcement. Smith's mother, Linda Doyle, was killed by another driver distracted by his cell phone, and after meeting other victims at LaHood's national Distracted Driving Summit last fall, she worked to establish a non-profit modeled on the success of Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) to give a voice to victims and their families.
The global anti-distracted driving effort also has an active online component that will allow other countries, safety organizations, and anti-distraction campaigns to share news and research as well as multimedia and other information. Facebook users can find out more about the campaign as well as other anti-distraction groups and events by visiting http://www.facebook.com/gcedd
, the Global Call to End Distracted Driving Facebook page.