FocusDriven formed to discourage drivers from using cellphones
A new nonprofit group dedicated to discouraging people from using cellphones while driving says it will model itself on Mothers Against Drunk Driving, the organization that has been so successful in raising awareness about the dangers of operating a vehicle while intoxicated.
Called FocusDriven and sponsored in part by the U.S. Department of Transportation, the organization has several members who have lost loved ones in traffic collisions involving drivers who were distracted by their mobile phones.
“Their stories are not just heartbreaking; they’re also a clear and compelling call to action,” Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said Tuesday to introduce the group. “Just as groups like MADD changed attitudes about drunk driving, I believe FocusDriven can help raise awareness and change the way people think about distracted driving.”
The organization’s president, Jennifer Smith, lost her mother in 2008 in a wreck in which a driver was talking on his cellphone.
“We want to stop all cellphone use while driving,” Smith said. “Driving distracted is just as dangerous as driving drunk. And people can and have heard the statistics, but until you see an actual human face that lost a mother, that lost a child, the statistics go unheard.”
The Transportation Department has helped FocusDriven get started by lending both legal and policy guidance to the group, Smith said.
FocusDriven’s next step will be to set up chapters in the states where its five founding board members live: Colorado, Florida, Michigan, Nebraska and Texas, she said.
Nineteen states, including California, and Washington, D.C., have banned text messaging while driving. California and some other states prohibit drivers from talking on hand-held cellphones, but thus far no state has completely banned cellphone use by drivers.
Drivers can be distracted by many activities, including talking on the phone, texting or eating. In 2008, distracted driving contributed to 5,870 deaths in the U.S., according to the Transportation Department.