text mesaging with a cellphone

New Group Raising Awareness of Distracted Driving

FocusDriven is a nonprofit organization created by the National Safety Council and supported by both DOT and Vernon F. Betkey Jr., chairman of the Governors Highway Safety Association.

FocusDriven is a new nonprofit organization created by the National Safety Council (NSC) and supported by both U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood and Vernon F. Betkey Jr., chairman of the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA). LaHood jointly announced its formation on Tuesday with NSC President and CEO Janet Froetscher, saying it's the first national nonprofit devoted specifically to raising awareness about the dangers of distracted driving.

The group's leaders have lost loved ones to distracted-driving crashes. Its president is Jennifer Smith of Grapevine, Texas; her mother died in such a wreck on Sept. 3, 2008, according to information posted on the group's site. This statement is appended there under the heading "Personal Mission": "Losing someone and then finding out it was preventable, makes losing them even harder. I would like my mother’s legacy to be that people hear her story and decide their call, email or text message is never as important as someone’s life. If we do nothing, then it is no longer a matter of if this will happen to someone you love, it is a matter of when it happens to someone you love. I have two beautiful daughters to protect; I can’t lose anyone else I love."

GHSA Chairman Vernon F. Betkey Jr.Betkey issued a statement saying the organization "will empower distracted driving victims to transform their grief into positive action. The distracted driving issue needs to be addressed on at least three fronts -- education, enforcement, and technology. FocusDriven will provide a new means to educate the public about the dangers of distracted driving and raise awareness of the issue, much like MADD has done with drunk driving. It will also be an excellent resource for garnering support for legislation and will help put a face on this complex and difficult highway safety issue."

"I first met several of the founding members of FocusDriven at our Distracted Driving Summit," LaHood said, "and I'm deeply impressed by their commitment to turn these tragic events into positive actions that will help save lives. Their stories are not just heartbreaking; they're also a clear and compelling call to action."

A year ago, NSC called for a nationwide ban on cell phone use while driving. Froetscher spoke at DOT's Distracted Driving Summit last fall.

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