Watch CBSN Live

Cell Phone Ban While Driving Gets Big Push

A new report out Tuesday finds that one out of four crashes is caused by a "cell phone driver" - someone who could be holding the phone or using a hands-free device. Both are equally distracting, experts say.

Joe Teater would have been a freshman in college had a 20-year-old woman talking on her cell phone not driven through a red light six years ago and killed him.

"We lost Joe as a result of a phone call and you think about that today and it just seems so senseless," Teater's father, David, said.

Hoping to educate drivers about just how dangerous it is to talk - and text - behind the wheel, Tuesday the Teaters and others who lost loved ones in cell phone crashes are establishing a national advocacy group modeled after Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD). Their group is called Focus Driven.

According to statistics, crashes caused by drivers using cell phones rose from 636,000 in 2003 to 1.6 million in 2008, CBS News correspondent Kelly Wallace reports.

U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said the group will be an "army of people" persuading people to put their phones away while driving. LaHood told CBS' "The Early Show" Tuesday he will push for a nationwide ban on cell phone use while driving. Currently only six states have laws in place. "We are going to push very hard," he said.

Since MADD was created in 1980 to educate people about drinking and driving the number of drunk driving deaths dropped nearly 50 percent to under 12,000 in 2008, reports Wallace.

Hand-held or hands-free, using cell phones while driving, experts say, can be the equivalent of driving with a blood alcohol level of .08 - the threshold of the legal limit."

Distracted driving advocates point to GPS technologies which can stop people from making and receiving calls or sending texts (the only exception is calls to 911).

"Ultimately, a day we envision a few years down the road is when we all look back and say, 'Remember those days when we used to talk on the cell phone while driving. Boy wasn't that a stupid thing to do'," Teater said.

Stupid indeed because when you are using a hand-held or even a hand-free cell phone, you are four times more likely to crash, Wallace reports. When you are texting, dialing or e-mailing, you are 23 time as likely to crash.