Attention distracted drivers: There's a brand new group devoted to getting you to stop.
Today, U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood and Janet Froetscher, president of the National Safety Council, announced the creation of FocusDriven, the first nonprofit organization devoted to combating distracted driving and supporting victims of distracted drivers.
"I don't want your children or my grandchildren to suffer at the hands of a driver who is too busy to pay attention to the rules of the road," LaHood said today at an event in Washington.
The group is modeled after the organization Mothers Against Drunk Driving, except that it aims to stop people from driving while distracted.
The National Safety Council estimates that at least 28 percent of all traffic crashes -- or at least 1.6 million each year -- are caused by drivers using cell phones and texting.
Rob Reynolds, a father of five from Omaha, Neb., serves on FocusDriven's board of directors. He lost his eldest daughter, 16-year-old Cady, when she drove her best friend home from a movie and was struck by another 16-year-old in an SUV who was distracted at the time. Cady died hours after the accident.
"Driving away from the hospital, devastated from our loss, my wife and I reaffirmed our commitment to each other, our four other children's well-being and we both expressed our strong desire to honor Cady's short life by helping to divert other teens and adults from driving while distracted," Reynolds said in a press release.
Shelley Forney, from Fort Collins, Colo., lost her 9-year-old daughter, Erica, in 2008 when a woman driving a Ford Expedition looked down at her cell phone just before she struck Erica as she was riding her bike home from school.
"What hurts most is knowing that this didn't have to happen," Fornery wrote in a press statement. Forney also serves on the group's board of directors.
Jennifer Smith, a woman from Grapevine, Texas, leads the group. Her mother, Linda, was killed in 2008 by a young man who ran a red light and T-boned her car. He was going 40-45 mph, the posted speed limit, but talking on a cell phone.
According to Smith, the young man was a "sober, churchgoing 20-year-old who had never even had a speeding ticket." Smith said the young man was on the phone for less than a minute, and never saw the red traffic light.
"It is my hope that FocusDriven will serve as a valuable resource for those who have lost loved ones as a result of the senseless and preventable destructive practice of distracted driving," said Jennifer Smith, president of FocusDriven, in a press release.
"Secretary LaHood and the Department of Transportation's attention to this topic have helped make it a top safety issue. Their efforts have provided hope that we can quickly eliminate this threat and prevent other families from going through what we have experienced," Smith said.
"They're preventable. For us not to stop it is absolutely unforgiveable," Froetscher said today.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration defines distracted driving as 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." There are three major types of distraction -- visual, manual and cognitive, or in lay terms, taking one's eyes off the road, hands off the steering wheel, or one's mind off of driving.