NASHVILLE - The Governor's Highway Safety Office is joining the national Governors Highway Safety Association, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and Oprah Winfrey for a national day of awareness to end distracted driving.
Friday, April 30 will be designated the first national "No Phone Zone Day."
"Many people use cell phones from a place they were never intended to be used: the driver's seat," said Governor Phil Bredesen. "When Tennessean's hands are off the wheel, their focus is off the task of driving, and the consequences can be deadly."
In 2008, nearly 6,000 people lost their lives nationwide in crashes involving a distracted driver, and more than a half million people were injured, according to traffic data from the NHTSA.
"Each day, 15 people in the U.S. die in distracted driving crashes. That's 105 people a week and those deaths can be prevented," said TDOT Commissioner Gerald Nicely.
There are three main types of distraction: Visual - taking your eyes off the road; Manual - taking your hands off the wheel; and Cognitive - taking your mind off what you are doing. While all distractions are dangerous for drivers, texting is the most alarming because it involves all three types of distraction.
In 2009, the Tennessee General Assembly enacted a law against texting while driving in Tennessee. Drivers caught sending or reading a text while driving face a $50 dollar fine. Tennessee is one of 23 states that currently ban texting while driving.
GHSO Director Kendell Poole asked, "Would you ever tie a blindfold around your eyes, get behind the wheel, and drive the length of a football field at 55 miles per hour? It is time to take off the blindfold and make our cars no phone zones."
A 2008 NHTSA study indicated at any given moment during the daylight hours, more than 800,000 vehicles are being driven by someone using a hand-held cell phone. A 2005 study for the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety found drivers are four times less likely to be involved in a serious injury crash when cell phones are turned off while behind the wheel.
"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.'"
On Friday April 30, "The Oprah Winfrey Show" will present a special live episode devoted to ending distracted driving and is asking people to take the "No Phone Zone" pledge and refrain from using cell phones while driving. More than 160,000 people have already signed the pledge.
For more information on "No Phone Zone Day," and to take the No Phone Zone pledge, visit www.oprah.com/nophonezone. For additional information on distracted driving, visit www.distraction.gov.