NSC Campaign Aims to Stop Death by Cell Phone

"Death by Cell Phone" is the title of a new billboard advertisement the National Safety Council launched recently in 67 markets nationwide, reaching more than 1 million people daily. Sponsored by Nationwide Insurance Co. and Lamar Advertising, the billboards feature Linda, a 61-year-old wife, mother, and grandmother from Oklahoma, and Joe, a 12-year-old boy from Michigan, with one tragic thing in common: both were killed in car crashes caused by drivers using cell phones.

The title comes from the words of Linda's daughter, Jennifer Smith, describing the young man who hit her mother: "He ran a red light and T-boned her car at 45 to 50 miles per hour, which was the posted speed limit. My mother died within a couple of hours from blunt force trauma to the head, neck, and chest. I just call it death by cell phone."

The billboard features photos of Linda and Joe, along with the address of a Web site, deathbycellphone.org, where viewers can watch a short video that tells their stories. Appearing in the video are Smith and Joe's father, David Teater.

Smith and Teater make impassioned pleas for Americans to hang up their cell phones and stop text messaging while driving. Both believe the drivers of the cars that killed their loved ones were unaware of the cognitive distraction caused by talking on a cell phone or texting while driving. According to the NSC, cell phone use is a factor in 6 percent of all crashes, which equates to 636,000 crashes, 330,000 injuries, 12,000 serious injuries, and 2,600 deaths each year. Studies also show that cell phone-using drivers are four times more likely to be involved in personal injury crashes than other drivers, and that most crashes are caused by driver inattention, with cell phone use being the number-one distraction.

According to a recent (2008) poll by Nationwide Insurance, roughly eight in ten (81 percent) cell phone owners report that they talk on their cell phone while driving. Comparatively, about one in five (18 percent) cell phone owners report that they send text messages while driving.

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