War on Distracted Driving Goes Global

Last week, the U.N. banned distracted driving by its 40,000 employees joining the U.S. and other countries around the world in a war against distracted driving.

Online PR News – 25-May-2010 – – HOUSTON, May 24, 2010 -- The war against distracted driving is going global.

Last week, United Nations (U.N.) Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and senior representatives from the U.S. and Russia appeared at the U.N. headquarters to launch a global effort to address distracted driving. Secretary Ban was joined for the announcement 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.

In addition, Secretary General Ban has barred the organization’s 40,000-plus employees from texting behind the wheel while driving U.N.-owned vehicles. The U.N. action follows U.S. President Barack Obama signing an Executive Order last fall prohibiting nearly four million U.S. government employees from texting while operating government-owned cell phones, vehicles or while on official business.

Distracted driving – driving while texting or talking on the cell phone – is already recognized as an horrific safety issue in the U.S. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that more than 6,000 fatalities and half a million injuries occur annually as a result of distracted driving.

The global numbers are even more staggering. There are approximately 600 million passenger vehicles on the road today and 4.6 billion cell phone subscriptions. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), 1.3 million lives are claimed every year as a result of car accidents, or one death every 30 seconds. That agency estimates that car accidents will climb from the ninth to the fifth leading cause of death worldwide by 2030. The vast majority of road crashes result from preventable driver behavior.

“Distracted driving kills,” says Houston car accident attorney Jim S. Adler. “Actions by global agencies such as the United Nations send the vitally important message to drivers here and abroad to ‘hang up and drive.’”

Adler noted that a number of states have already moved to ban distracted driving. Seven states have outright bans on using any handheld cell phone while driving (California, Connecticut, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Utah and Washington) as do the District of Columbia and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Wireless headsets are banned for young drivers (under 18 or 21, depending on the state) in 21 states and D.C. Twenty-three states and D.C. ban text messaging for all drivers; nine other states ban it for minors and/or new drivers.

Adler said these actions parallel those by many governments. To date, 32 countries – including Russia, Brazil, France, Japan, Jordan, Portugal, Spain, Taiwan, the United Kingdom and Canada -- have passed laws that restrict drivers’ use of handheld devices. Portugal has outlawed all phone use – hand-held or hands-free – in the driver’s seat