The dangers of cell phone use while driving

Tony Anschutz is on a mission to save lives. On August 17 Tony will begin a solo, two-month, 16,000-mile motorcycle adventure to raise awareness about the dangers of cell phone use while driving – a behavior that causes 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. Tony learned of the risk of cell phone use while driving through the loss of a 12-year-old boy named Joe, the son of Tony’s friend Dave Teater.

Tony met Dave shortly after Joe was killed in a crash caused by a driver distracted by her cell phone. Tony was awed by Dave’s dedication to banning cell phone use on the road. Dave joined the National Safety Council in January 2009 as Senior Director of Transportation Strategic Initiatives, leading NSC’s advocacy initiatives to reduce deaths and injuries associated with teen driving and distracted driving. This further inspired Tony to devote his adventure to saving lives.

Safety and adventure are constants for Tony — a former Los Angeles police officer who now works as a scuba instructor in Cozumel, Mexico.

Tony has seen the sobering facts about cell phone use while driving:

* Drivers who use cell phones are four times more 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 to get in a crash than drunk drivers (at the .08 level).
* Hands-free devices are no safer because of the cognitive distraction that occurs while using a cell phone.

"Technology is wonderful, but as we become dependant on it, we must also adapt our behavior to its benefits and dangers," Tony says. "Most people don’t realize how dangerous it is to operate a motor vehicle while using a phone. As a motorcyclist for 20 years, 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. People interested in tracking his progress can visit Fans are also encouraged to track Tony through his Ride the Americas Facebook group.

Tony’s estimated itinerary includes:

* Denver, Colorado, Aug. 17 — Ride the Americas kick-off, 2 p.m. at the Colorado State Patrol Academy
* Cheyenne, Wyoming, Aug. 18 — Meet Tony at noon at the Wyoming-Montana Safety Council
* Billings, Montana, Aug. 21
* Anchorage, Alaska, Sept. 6
* Seattle, Washington, Sept. 15
* Portland, Oregon, Sept. 16
* San Francisco, California, Sept. 18
* Los Angeles, California, Sept. 20 — Meet Tony at the NSC’s California Chapter
* Palm Springs, California, Sept. 21
* Phoenix, Arizona, Sept. 24 — Meet Tony at the NSC’s Arizona Chapter
* Flagstaff, Arizona, Sept. 26
* Albuquerque, New Mexico, Sept. 28
* Dallas, Texas, Oct. 1 — Meet Tony at the NSC’s Texas Chapter
* Austin, Texas, Oct. 2 — Say goodbye to Tony as he enters Mexico (location TBD)

"By delivering information to everyone I meet, I hope to educate hundreds – maybe thousands – of people about how unsafe it is to talk on a cell phone while driving," Tony says.