“No Phone Zone Day” is this Friday; education cited as key to reducing traffic accidents caused by distracted driving

The Governors Highway Safety Association is joining forces with Oprah Winfrey to promote “No Phone Zone Day” this Friday, April 30. The campaign is part of a nationwide effort to combat distracted driving, particularly the use of cell phones by motorists.

Distracted driving is a leading cause of Chicago car accidents and serious and fatal traffic accidents across the country. As we reported in January on our Chicago Car Accident Lawyers blog, the “No Phone Zone” campaign launched with an initial 50,000 motorists pledging to not use a cell phone while behind the wheel.

This Friday, affiliates will air a live special episode of the Oprah Winfrey Show dedicated to the dangers of using a cell phone or text messaging while driving. Special viewing rallies will be held in Atlanta, Boston, Detroit, Los Angeles and Washington, D.C. and will include victim’s families, elected officials, parents, youth, law enforcement and advocacy organizations. Additionally, the show will debut a new nationwide public service campaign.

In Illinois, the Illinois Department of Transportation is partnering with the Ford Motor Company Fund to hold two “Ride and Drive” teen training programs this week — one in Springfield and the other here in Chicago. More information is available at www.drivingskillsforlife.com.

“While state legislation and enforcement are both critical factors, education efforts are also important-and what better person to raise public awareness than Oprah Winfrey,” said Association Chairman Vernon Betkey. “As a society, we need to make cell phone use while driving as unacceptable as drunk driving. We are very grateful to Harpo and Ms. Winfrey for their leadership and commitment.”

The federal government has grown increasingly vocal about distracted driving, especially the use of cell phones behind the wheel, which it contends involves all three forms of driver distraction — visual, manual and cognitive.

According to government statistics:

-Using a cell phone while driving delays a driver’s reactions as much as driving with a blood-alcohol level of .08, the legal threshold for drunk driving in Illinois.

-Nearly 6,000 people were killed and more than 500,000 were injured in traffic accidents involving distracted drivers in 2008.

-Drivers who use hand-held devices are four times more likely to be involved in a motor vehicle accident.

Common forms of driver distraction include using a cell phone, eating or drinking, talking to passengers, dressing or grooming, reading, using navigation systems, watching video or using other on-board electronic devices, including stereos and Mp3 players.

If you or a loved one has been injured in an accident, the Chicago car accident attorneys and the personal injury and wrongful death lawyers at Abels & Annes offer free and confidential appointments to discuss your rights. Call (866) 99-ABELS. There is no fee unless you win.

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