Since 1982, the number of annual traffic fatalities due to drunken driving has decreased from more than 30,000 to fewer than 15,500 last year. But in recent years, another kind of tragic story has begun to emerge with ever greater frequency. Now we are mourning the deaths of those killed by people talking or sending text messages on their cell phones while they drive.
On Friday April 30, Oprah Winfrey and Harpo Studios are taking a stand against distracted driving, launching a new public service announcement campaign and joining forces with some of the country’s preeminent transportation safety organizations to declare Friday, April 30 the first national “No Phone Zone Day.” A large-scale effort to honor victims of distracted driving, “No Phone Zone Day” will also educate and activate Americans to end the deadly driving habits that kill nearly 6,000 Americans a year, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
“A call or text isn’t worth taking a life,” said Winfrey. “We must not allow more mothers and fathers, daughters and sons, sisters and brothers to die before we take action against distracted driving. Let’s put a stop to it now, by joining together on April 30 for national ‘No Phone Zone Day’, and by making our cars a ‘No Phone Zone.'”
As a national call to action, all viewers and town hall participants will be asked to take the “No Phone Zone” pledge. By pledging, drivers agree to make their car a “No Phone Zone” and refrain from using their phone while driving, eliminating distractions from incoming calls, texts or emails. More than 160,000 people to date have signed Oprah’s “No Phone Zone” pledge at Oprah.com.
What Is Distracted Driving?
Distracted driving is any non-driving activity a person engages in that has the potential to distract him or her from the primary task of driving and increase the risk of crashing. According to the DOT, there are three main types of distraction: Visual – taking your eyes off the road, Manual – taking you hands of the wheel, and Cognitive – taking your mind off what you’re doing. While all distractions can endanger drivers’ safety, texting is the most alarming because it involves all three types of distraction.
A 2008 NHTSA study indicated that at any given moment during the daylight hours, more than 800,000 vehicles are being driven by someone using a hand-held cell phone. According to a 2005 study for the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, drivers are four times less likely to get into accidents serious enough to cause injury when they turn off their cell phones while behind the wheel.