River Forest, IL – On a day that many around the country will give thanks for all they have, family and friends of Erica Forney will remember a little girl whose life was cut short because of a driver distracted by a cell phone. Two days before Thanksgiving in 2008, 9-year-old Erica was riding her bike home from school. She was just 15 pedals from the safety of her home when she was struck by an SUV. The driver was using a cell phone at the time of the crash. Erica died on Thanksgiving from a serious head injury. Now, two years later, the Forney family celebrates Thanksgiving with memories of Erica and the mission to stop cell phone-distracted driving.
“To lose our daughter because of a cell phone call is incomprehensible,” said Shelley Forney, Erica’s mother. “What frightens me is that people don’t understand the dangers they are putting themselves and others in when they use their cell phones while driving. It’s not just about where the hands and the eyes are – the distraction to the brain is the greatest concern because people don’t realize the brain is distracted.”
Shelley Forney is a founding board member of FocusDriven – Advocates for Cell-Free Driving. Her determination to end distracted driving resulted in Congress last year designating April as Distracted Driving Awareness Month in honor of Erica.
“Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of unintentional death,” said David Teater, senior director of Transportation Initiatives for the National Safety Council. “Distractions are the primary cause of motor vehicle crashes, and cell phone use is the No. 1 driver distraction because it contributes to the most crashes.”
“The message here is simple: When you use your phone while driving, you put others’ lives at risk,” said Jennifer Smith, president of FocusDriven. “Each day, I am contacted by families who have lost someone irreplaceable to them. Has our society become so addicted to ‘being connected’ that we value a phone call more than a life?"
FocusDriven – Advocates for Cell-Free Driving (www.focusdriven.org) is a nonprofit advocacy organization for victims of motor vehicle crashes involving drivers using cell phones. FocusDriven supports victims of cell phone distracted driving and families of victims. Its goal is to increase public awareness on the dangers of cell phone distracted driving by putting a human face on the disastrous impact of the behavior, in order to promote corresponding public policies, programs and personal responsibility.
The National Safety Council (www.nsc.org) 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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