Death by cell phone billboards in Texas

By Christel Phillips - bio | email

LUFKIN, TX (KTRE) - The National Safety Council has launched a new campaign to address cell phone use while driving in Texas. Lufkin Police traffic division told us they are glad to know that something is being done to spread the message about the dangers of using your cell phones while driving.

In 2008, Lufkin Police reported have 116 accidents that occurred involving inattention or distracted drivers. Six months in 2009, that number is already at 92.

Sergeant David Walker, with the Lufkin Police Traffic Division feels the "Death by Cell Phone" campaign could help save lives. He adds, "The accidents are killing people. What's it worth? Can that phone call wait? Is it worth buying a hands off system for your car, I think there rather inexpensive. It's just making somebody go do it, and if takes somebody getting killed in your family or you killing somebody it's not worth it."

Walker also warns that East Texas drivers should be extremely attentive when driving through the U.S. Highway 59 construction project areas. He says cell phones, construction, and 18 wheelers are not a good combination.

Below is the press release the "Death by Cell Phone" billboard campaign.

                                              National Safety Council Launches

"Death by Cell Phone" Billboards in Texas

Itasca, Ill. - "Death by Cell Phone," the National Safety Council's new campaign to address cell phone use while driving has launched in Texas. The billboards are located in the Midland, Tyler and Laredo areas. Sponsored by Nationwide Insurance Co. and Lamar Advertising, the billboards span across 67 markets and 37 states and feature Linda, a 61-year-old wife, mother and grandmother from Oklahoma, and Joe, a 12-year-old boy from Michigan, both of whom were killed in car crashes by drivers using cell phones.

The title "Death by Cell Phone" comes from the words of Linda's daughter, Jennifer Smith, describing the distracted driver 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 NSC hopes the campaign will convince drivers to think twice before using cellular devices while driving. Drivers who use a cell phone are four times more likely to be in a crash and are responsible for 636,000 crashes and 2,600 deaths each year.

Over 19,000 people per day are expected to see the billboards in Texas, which features photos of Linda and Joe, along with the address of a Web site 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 taking on a cell phone or texting while driving. "It's just not possible for our brains to focus on the road and the call or text," said Teater.

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

Smith and Teater are hopeful for change in the United States that recognizes cell phone use while driving as particularly hazardous. The change will entail time, public education, state level legislation, law enforcement and technology solutions offered by wireless operators and auto manufacturers.

Since his son's death, Teater has sought to educate the public about the dangers of cell phone use while driving. In April he joined the NSC as Senior Director, Transportation Strategic Initiatives, focusing his efforts on reducing distracted driving and teen driving fatalities.

A fact sheet, data resources and other information concerning cell phone use while driving are available on the NSC Web site at

The National Safety Council ( saves lives by preventing injuries and deaths at work, in homes and communities, and on the roads, through leadership, research, education and advocacy.

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