'Death By Cell Phone' campaign focuses on texting while driving

Tuesday, July 14, 2009 | 11:00 a.m. CDT; updated 10:26 a.m. CST, Thursday, February 18, 2010

COLUMBIA — As of Aug. 28, text messaging while driving will be illegal for people 21 and under in Missouri, the twenty-third state to pass some form of legislation banning texting while driving.

Of those 23, nine have banned texting while driving for a younger segment of the population. Five states and Washington, D.C. have already banned the use of hand-held cell phones while driving for all ages.

After a series of text message-related disasters, a number of public transit companies have implemented zero tolerance policies.

Following a trolley crash in Boston, a train crash in Los Angeles, and a bus crash in San Antonio, the Metro in Washington, D.C. is the latest to outlaw texting for its drivers, with a 'one strike, you're out' approach.

In an effort to attract more attention to the issue, the National Safety Council has started a “Death by Cell Phone” advertising campaign in 37 states. The council is in the process of posting billboards in Jefferson City, Kansas City and Columbia, stated a news release from the organization. The billboards display a 61-year old grandmother from Oklahoma and a 12-year-old boy from Michigan who were killed in car crashes by drivers using cell phones.

According to a Nationwide Insurance survey from 2008, 81 percent of those surveyed admitted to talking on the phone in the car, while 18 percent admitted to texting. The council is hoping to change that.

“The NSC hopes the campaign will convince drivers to think twice before using cellular devices while driving,” the news release states. 

The Nationwide Insurance survey is one of a handful of recent studies addressing texting while driving. In a nontraditional study by Car and Driver, the magazine compared texting while driving to drinking and driving, and found texting to be more dangerous.

Two subjects’ reaction times were compared while driving and texting and then while driving intoxicated. The subjects were required to stop the car in response to a red light mounted on the windshield, first while texting, and then while intoxicated. They braked and the drunk subject stopped more quickly.

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Mike Sykuta July 14, 2009 | 1:16 p.m.

Does it strike anyone else as ironic that the Death By Cell Phone campaign--which is targeted at reducing accidents resulting from distracted drivers--is planning a mass billboard campaign that would take drivers' attentions off the road...and given where billboards are located, distracting drivers at 70+ mph?

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