Local News

New organization combats distracted driving

Posted January 12, 2010

Texting

— The U.S. Department of Transportation and safety advocates joined Tuesday to announce the creation of FocusDriven, an organization dedicated to raising public awareness about the dangers of driving while talking on cell phones or texting on handheld computers.

The organization will be modeled after Mothers Against Drunk Drivers, which has successfully lobbied for tougher drunk driving laws. Safety advocates are pushing states to do the same thing for texting and cell phone use.

Group to motorists: Hang up the phone Group to motorists: Hang up the phone

Officials in North Carolina, which is among 19 states and the District of Columbia that have banned texting while driving, say they hope the group will help make a difference in the state. (Read ways to keep yourself from getting distracted while behind the wheel.)

"It could definitely help. It's the first step in addressing the problem, especially from a motorist behavior standpoint," said Cliff Braam, a traffic safety specialist with the state Department of Transportation's Division of Mobility and Safety.

Data collected from the state DOT from 2004 to 2008 shows an average of 57,984 people a year are involved in crashes in North Carolina where distracted driving is a factor. More than 13,000 are injured and 119 die.

Last month, the North Carolina Highway Patrol said, Erin Lindsay-Culkins, 26, of Efland, was using her cell phone in Orange County as she drove through a railroad crossing and was hit by a train. She and her 5-year-old son died.

"We really would like for the motorists to take ownership in highway safety," Braam said.

FocusDriven is being established with the support of the U.S. transportation department and the independent, nonprofit National Safety Council. It will be led by Jennifer Smith, whose mother was killed in 2008 by a driver who was talking on his cell phone.

The department recently launched a federal Web site with information on distracted driving and is distributing a public service announcement.

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  • cary1969 Jan 14, 2010

    ditto for the lady and child that got hit by a train...on the phone and not paying attention

  • 6079 SMITH W Jan 12, 2010

    The same people who get rabid over smoking in restaurants raise hell about taking their "right" to text and talk while pretending to drive...and I bet Drj STILL has trouble driving down Hillsborough Street today! ;)

  • time4real Jan 12, 2010

    if you're too busy that you can't leave the house or your office for a few minutes without being on a cell phone, you get what you bring on yourself!

  • wshekrota Jan 12, 2010

    I beg to differ I don't think people are oblivious. I think they well know and risk that it won't happen to them, much like drunk driving. The problem is we don't have 10 years to maybe sway half of these folks and still have danger on our highways. I heard a solution recently I can't figure out why has not been already accepted. Fact: doing anything but driving in your car is not a right. Well we all pay tons in auto insurance that surely continues to go up as people die. I think insurance companies should help us to invoke a more instant solution. The only thing (sigh) people really understand is money. If an accident investigation finds a cell phone in use hold the party at fault personally responsible bleeding their resources first then the insurance company. Of course that party should likely never be able to buy insurance again. Now educate the public of this and now they have something to lose. Money would be the catalyst to personal action.
    -Walt

  • oldrebel Jan 12, 2010

    It is obvious that those who are oblivious to the dangers of distracted driving will not give up using their cell phone. They will say stupid things like "people were running red lights decades before cell phones ever existed." in their denial of the situation and generalizead infintum.

    You can't reach through the haze of stupidity of such. You just have to pass a law making talking on a cell phone illegal and be done with it. Then they'll come up with something even more stupid like "radio's and conversation whhile riving are distracting too" in a vain effort to sidetrack the focus from their dangerous acitivty of using a cell phone while driving.

    Fine, make those activities illegal too. Happy now?

  • DrJ Jan 12, 2010

    It saddens me to hear of people losing their loved ones, especially to "preventable" situations.

    But having said that, I was listening on one of the news channels today a story about a boy that died after after a woman ran a red light. Witnesses say she was talking on a cell phone. And again, I feel badly that they lost their boy, but people were running red lights decades before cell phones ever existed.

    The short of it is they say they're targeting distracted driving, but it appears the effort is directly at and only at cell phones. And unlike what some would have us believe, they can are are used safely the VAST majority of the time. A careless driver will become distracted by many things. A cell phone is just one of them. Heck, before I was married, a pretty girl standing beside the road was more distracting than a 1000 cell phones!