Mar 282010
 
Authors: Ryan Sheine

In November of 2008, 9-year-old Erica Forney was bicycling home from school when a distracted driver on her cell phone hit her head on with a 5000-pound SUV. Saturday, at CSU, Congresswoman Betsy Markey, D-4, continued her campaign to end distracted driving.

Markey has teamed up with FocusDriven –– an organization co-founded by Erica’s mother, Shelley Forney, dedicated to ending distracted driving –– to sponsor a national resolution designating April as National Distracted Driving Awareness month, which passed a House vote last week.

It has yet to go through the Senate, but Markey hosted a summit, attended by about 60 people, in the Lory Student Center’s Cherokee Park Room “to raise awareness about a deadly trend in our nation- distracted driving,” Markey said.

“The heartbreaking story of Erica’s death is far to common,” she said, “but worse, it was preventable.”

About 60 community members attended the FocusDriven sponsored event.

Sergeant John Hahn of the Colorado State Patrol said that distracted driving causes one out of every five motor vehicle crashes investigated by CSP.

“Distracted driving is the second leading cause of all the crashes we’ve investigated on the roadways controlled by the state patrol and the leading cause of injury crashes on our highways,” Hahn said. “It’s an issue very much on the forefront of our minds.”

David Strickland, administrator of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, was one of the speakers at a distracted driving awareness summit and said numbers tell the story of how distracted driving is a growing problem. But a story like Forney’s brings it home personally that, “victims are not numbers, they are our daughters, they are our sons, our loved ones,” he said.

Chairman of the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, Minnesota’s Congressman James Oberstar said that in Portugal it is a crime to use a cell phone while driving.

“We need to get serious about this,” Oberstar said, “MADD (Mothers Against Drunk Driving) was an extraordinary citizen movement that made a dramatic change in the way we look at drinking and driving, now we have to move to texting and talking on the cell phone while driving.”

“It’s going to take citizen engagement, citizen commitment and willingness to stay for the long haul,” he said.

Staff writer Ryan Sheine can be reached at news@collegian.com.

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