While crises continue in Ukraine, Syria, Iran, and the Central African Republic, the United Nations turned its attention to a different kind of crisis on Thursday: the "global road safety crisis." The U.N. General Assembly held a session on Improving Global Road Safety in which the United States cosponsored a resolution "which calls for laws to fight texting and driving."
Ambassador Samantha Power tweeted the following:
— Samantha Power (@AmbassadorPower) April 10, 2014
In her remarks at the session, Power noted that although "improvements in road design, traffic management, safety equipment, and emergency response" could help reduce the 1.2 million annual worldwide traffic fatalities, "Most important, however, is driver behavior." She continued:
Excessive speed and a failure to obey traffic rules are both killers. The role of alcohol in traffic fatalities is also well documented and should never be understated. In recent years, however, we have faced a new and deadly threat in the form of driving while texting or talking on the phone. Research shows that cell phone users are over 5 times more likely to get in an accident than undistracted drivers. And that texting while driving can delay a driver’s reactions as much as a 0.08 blood-alcohol level, the same as a drunk driver. Already, in the United States, more teenagers are killed while texting than because they have been drinking. But the problem is neither confined to teenagers nor to highly-industrialized countries; it is spreading as fast as technology.
It is unclear how the push for such bans will fare, particularly in less developed countries where drivers routinely take shortcuts on sidewalks, and red lights and stop signs often seem optional. However, Power cited a new law just passed in Maryland that was named for Jake Owen, a five-year-old who was killed when a distracted driver rammed the boy's family's car. The law increases penalties for drivers found responsible for causing an accident while talking on a cell phone or texting.