Mixed Messages for Distracted Drivers

Jennifer Smith calls her mother's loss "death by cell phone." Last September, 61-year-old Linda Doyle was killed by a driver who ran a red light. Police say the 20-year old in the other vehicle was talking on his cell phone.

"No phone call could be worth someone's life," Smith said.

Distracted motorists, like a van driver texting on the go in San Antonio, Texas, are involved with 25 percent of all police reported crashes.

"Distracted driving is a growing and serious problem," said Jackie Gillan of Advocated for Highway and Auto Safety.

Gillan says the message is simple: drivers need to keep their eyes on the road, not the keypad, reports CBS News correspondent Terrell Brown. But Gillan is concerned drivers may be getting a mixed message.

"I think there is a mixed message if governments are putting out real-time information and using the technology that in order for the driver to access them puts them in danger," Gillan said.

Twenty-seven states and Washington D.C. ban texting while driving. Yet D.C. and 33 state transportation departments offer travel alerts via texts or the social messaging service Twitter, like the Michigan Department of Transportation.

"Our focus of using Twitter is to get people the information they need when they need it," said Kirk Steudle.

That was the case in July, after this fiery tanker crash near Detroit. The transportation department posted tweets alerting drivers of a major road closure.

"We want people to look at those messages before they get behind the wheel of their car," Steudle said.

Smith is lobbying to end distracted driving.

"I don't want to get another phone call that this has happened again," Smith said.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports nearly 6,000 people lost their lives last year in a crash involving a distracted driver. More than a half million people were injured. And by far, drivers under the age of 20 are the worst offenders.
  • Terrell Brown

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