Good morning everyone. Thank you, Mr. Secretary-General. Thank you especially for your leadership here at the United Nations, including on the very important issue of distracted driving. Secretary LaHood, thank you so much for joining us in New York and for the outstanding work you are doing to raise awareness on this deadly problem across the country and around the world.
Jennifer Smith, we thank you so much for your presence here and for your leadership on the issue. And I also want to thank my very good friend and colleague Ambassador Churkin for being here today. He and the Russian Federation have been leaders on this issue, including by sponsoring the March 2 General Assembly Resolution entitled, “Improving Road Safety”; which the United States was proud to be able to co-sponsor. This resolution, among other things, specifically discouraged texting while driving. It passed by consensus, which is a tribute to Russia’s important leadership.
We’re here today to shine a spotlight on a problem that affects us all. Texting while driving isn’t a harmless habit. It’s a killer. The suffering it causes is direct and immediate—lives lost for no reason, futures shattered in an instant. But its toll is truly global. It’s a problem, as the Secretary-General just said, that needs global attention and action—and that’s why we all stand here today.
In the United States, nearly 6,000 people died in 2008 in distracted driving crashes, and more than a half a million more were injured, many of them seriously. And these numbers don’t even tell the whole story because we often can’t identify what factors precisely may have led to a crash. What we do know is this: drivers who use hand-held devices are four times more likely to get into crashes causing serious injuries, than those who are focused on the road. Studies by researchers at the University of Utah show that using a cell phone while driving delays a driver’s reactions as much as having alcohol in your blood up to the legal limit of .08 percent.
I applaud the Secretary-General for recognizing that distracted driving is a very serious matter—and for prohibiting the United Nations’ 40,000 employees from texting while operating vehicles on UN business. President Obama issued a similar order, an Executive Order, last year. And we hope other world leaders will follow suit.
Already, there are some encouraging signs. Thirty-two countries have passed laws to restrict the use of handheld devices by drivers. Early next year, the World Health Organization will team up with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to provide an information resource kit to help other countries develop and implement their own distracted-driving programs.
For the sake of my loved ones and all of yours, let’s make distracted driving a problem of the past.
Thank you all for joining us today.
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