U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood and National Safety Council President Janet Froetscher on Tuesday, Jan. 12, announced the creation of FocusDriven, the first national nonprofit organization devoted specifically to raising awareness about the dangers of distracted driving. The group will be led by Jennifer Smith, who has been an outspoken advocate against distracted driving since her mother was killed by someone talking on his cell phone while driving in 2008.
FocusDriven is a direct outgrowth of the September 2009 national Distracted Driving Summit in Washington, D.C. Since the two-day meeting that brought together affected families, law enforcement, researchers, public officials and others, family members of distracted driving victims have worked to establish an advocacy organization with support from DOT and NSC, a nonprofit organization that uses leadership, research, education and advocacy to prevent injuries and save lives. FocusDriven’s new website, www.focusdriven.org, hosts information on distracted driving, help for victims and family members, and ways to get involved.
“I first met several of the founding members of FocusDriven at our Distracted Driving Summit, and I’m deeply impressed by their commitment to turn these tragic events into positive actions that will help save lives,” LaHood says. “Their stories are not just heartbreaking — they’re also a clear and compelling call to action.”
“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,” Smith says. “Secretary LaHood and the Department of Transportation’s attention to this topic have helped make it 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.”
Exactly one year ago today, NSC became the first organization to call for a nationwide ban on cell phone use while driving. “FocusDriven is an important organization that puts faces and names to the tragedies caused by cell phone use while driving,” says Froetscher, who has committed NSC’s resources to helping establish FocusDriven. “The members of FocusDriven have powerful stories to tell about their loved ones. We hope their stories will help people realize the dangers of using cell phones while driving.”
FocusDriven is modeled after Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), which has successfully changed society’s attitudes towards drinking and driving with the use of advocates who have experienced the terrible consequences firsthand. FocusDriven also hopes to provide support for victims of distracted driving, which has become a growing epidemic in our society, but also to expand its mission to include education and the evaluation of new technologies.
Putting an end to the dangerous practice of distracted driving is a top priority for LaHood and DOT. The department recently launched a federal website, www.distraction.gov, with comprehensive information on distracted driving, as well as a national PSA featuring LaHood to raise awareness about this dangerous driving behavior. “Just as groups like MADD changed attitudes about drunk driving, I believe FocusDriven can help raise awareness and change the way people think about distracted driving,” he says. “Together, I hope we can put an end to this dangerous practice.”