The most gratifying headline I woke up to this morning was in the Student Operated Press, "UN Chief Ban Ki-moon: Phone use while driving kills."
His exact words at the UN yesterday?
"We are seeing a major emerging challenge of driver distraction, mainly by using mobile phones. Together we have a message to all drivers of the world--don't let using a mobile for a few seconds make you and others immobile for life."
Although, that was also huge. As US Ambassador to the UN Susan Rice said, "We're here today to shine a spotlight on a problem that affects us all. Texting while driving isn't a harmless habit; it's a killer."
But, as Jennifer Smith, founder and president of FocusDriven, added yesterday:
"This is not just about texting. It's about all cell phone use behind the wheel."
And that's why Russia's UN Ambassador Vitaly Churkin made it clear yesterday that measures to combat the epidemic of distracted driving will be included in the action plan being prepared by the World Health Organization and other UN agencies for a UN Decade of Action on Road Safety due to run from 2011 to 2020.
It was kind of Ambassador Churkin to say, "We appreciate the initiative of the United States in launching a great initiative on distracted driving." But our initiative alone cannot turn back this deadly behavior around the world.
We need the world's drivers to hear the message that you cannot text or talk on the phone and drive safely--you just can't do it.
Drivers in the US are only beginning to learn this. We are right at the place where America was with .08 and drunk driving and seat belt use when those campaigns first started.
Some of the world's nations are far ahead of us on this. Portugal, for example, bans all cell phone use while driving, including hands-free. Thirty-two other nations, like 25 US states and the District of Columbia, have anti-texting laws or handheld phone bans.
But others--like some states right here in the US--offer their citizens no such road safety protections.
I hope this global call will change that. But DOT can't control how our states and other countries legislate. We can help educate and raise awareness--a key step toward changing dangerous behavior--and you can rest assured we are on the job.
I want to thank everyone who joined us online to watch yesterday's activity at the UN. And I want to thank the thousands who participated in our Twitter and Facebook supporting campaigns. I am so heartened by that outpouring of support, and I am pleased to let you know that those campaigns reached millions around the world.
Now, that's the kind of combined effort that changes unsafe behavior.
But, we can still use your help. Tell your friends, and tell your families what Secretary General Ban said yesterday. Tell them that driver distraction kills.