Tony Anschutz is on a mission to save lives. On Monday, Aug. 17, Tony begins a two-month, 16,000-mile solo motorcycle adventure to raise awareness about the dangers of cell phone use while driving – a factor in 636,000 crashes and 2,600 deaths annually. Tony’s “Ride the Americas” trip will take him through North American crossroads and big cities, where he will stop to meet people and advance the National Safety Council’s call for a nationwide ban on cell phone use while driving.
For Tony, the mission is personal. He learned of the risks of cell phone use while driving from the loss of a boy named Joe, the son of Tony’s friend Dave Teater.
Tony met Dave shortly after 12-year-old Joe was killed in a crash caused by a driver talking on her cell phone. Tony was awed by Dave’s work to ban cell phone use on the road. Dave joined NSC in April as senior director of transportation strategic initiatives, leading the council’s advocacy efforts to reduce deaths and injuries associated with teen driving and distracted driving. This further inspired Tony to devote his adventure to saving lives.
A former Los Angeles police officer who now works as a scuba instructor in Cozumel, Mexico, Tony knows the sobering facts about cell phone use while driving:
Drivers who use cell phones are 4 times as likely than other drivers to be in a crash that causes injury.
About 80 percent of crashes are related to driver distraction; the leading source of driver inattention is cell phones.
Simulator research shows that drivers using cell phones have slower reaction times and are more likely than drunk drivers (at the 0.08 level) to be involved in a crash.
Hands-free are no safer than hand-held devices because of the cognitive distraction that occurs while using a cell phone.
“Technology is wonderful but as we become dependent on it, we must also adapt our behavior to its dangers,” Tony said. “Most people don’t realize how dangerous it is to operate a motor vehicle while using a phone. As a motorcyclist, I am more vulnerable on the road. Someone on a cell phone is even less likely to see me, which puts me at greater risk.”
Throughout his journey, Tony will write about his adventures and post images online. People can track his progress at ridetheamericas.com or on Tony’s "Ride the Americas" Facebook group.