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Summer 2010 | Vol. 12 | No. 4
International Officials Join U.N. for Global Effort to End Distracted Driving
United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon joined U.S. and Russian representatives at the U.N. headquarters in New York City on May 19 to launch a global effort to end distracted driving, an epidemic affecting countries across the globe. Joining Secretary Ban for the announcement was U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Susan Rice, U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, Russian Ambassador Vitaly Churkin as well as Jennifer Smith, the President of FocusDriven, a U.S.-based victims’ advocacy organization.
At the meeting, Secretary Ban introduced a directive for the 40,000 United Nations staff which prohibits employees from texting behind the wheel in any U.N.-owned vehicles. This comes in the wake of President Obama’s Executive Order last fall that bars nearly 4 million U.S. government employees from texting while operating government-owned cell phones, vehicles or while on official business.
In conjunction with the event, the State Department reached out to U.S. embassies around the world to raise awareness about distracted driving and to collect data about the issue from foreign governments.
The announcement comes at a time when more people across the globe are getting behind the wheel. Nearly 600 million cars are on the road today, with over 4.6 billion cell phone subscriptions worldwide. Drivers who are texting are more than 20 times more likely to crash than non-distracted drivers. In 2008, approximately 6,000 people were killed and more than half a million were injured in crashes involving distracted driving in the U.S. alone.
These statistics only exacerbate the global traffic fatality rate, which claims 1.3 million lives each year—or one life every 30 seconds. The World Health Organization estimates that traffic crashes will climb from the ninth to the fifth leading cause of death worldwide by 2030.
Ambassador Churkin said, “The call for action we are making today is very timely and important. Distracted driving is one of the major risk factors for road traffic crashes. It was highlighted during the First Global Ministerial Conference on Road Safety held in Moscow last November and is reflected in the U.N. General Assembly resolution 64/255 ‘improving global road safety’ which was presented by Russia. Russia is ready to engage with the United States and other interested countries in defining the ways to mainstream it into global road safety cooperation agenda.”
In February, the U.N. General Assembly passed a resolution declaring the decade of 2011-2020 as the “Decade of Action on Road Safety” with a goal to stabilize and then reduce the forecast level of global road deaths by 2020. The U.S. State Department is spearheading an effort to develop a strategy for implementing the declaration. Federal agencies, as well as NGOs and their members, will be invited to participate in the strategic planning effort.