*For the past several months, Oprah Winfrey has been using the final moments of her talk show to promote her “No Phone Zone” campaign against using cell phones while driving. The crusade’s official launch took place in grand style on Friday.
“It’s like Russian roulette every time you pick up your phone in the car,” Winfrey told her viewers from Chicago on Friday’s live episode, which included live rallies in Atlanta, Boston, Detroit, Washington DC and Los Angeles.
Safety advocates hope Winfrey’s star power will bring attention to the growing scourge of distracted drivers, who are blamed for an estimated 6,000 deaths and a half-million injuries a year.
The advocates hope to mimic the success of safety campaigns in the 1980s that helped reduce drunken driving deaths and increased the use of seat belts.
“We need to really break people’s bad habits,” Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said from the Washington rally. “Everybody has a bad habit of thinking they can talk on their phone or text and drive, and you can’t do it safely.”
Twenty-four states and the District of Columbia prohibit drivers from texting behind the wheel; six states bar drivers from using hand-held cell phones. Congress is considering legislation to push all states to ban texting by drivers, and the federal government is encouraging all states to restrict cell phone use behind the wheel.
Since Winfrey’s No Phone Zone campaign in January, more than 200,000 people have taken the pledge. They can choose one of three promises for their driving: no texting; no texting and only handsfree calling; or no texting or calls.