[JURIST] UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon [official website] on Wednesday banned all UN employees [UN News Centre report] from using cellular devices while driving in an effort to take the prohibition against cell phone use global. Ban is teaming up with US Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood, US Ambassador Susan Rice [official profiles], and Jennifer Smith, president and co-founder of a national advocacy group, FocusDriven [advocacy website], to launch a global campaign to improve road safety by ending habits that distract the attention of drivers. Ban addressed reporters in New York, highlighting the danger [remarks] associated with the practice.
Every year, more than 1.2 million people die on the roads around the world, and as many as 50 million others are injured. … Studies indicate that using a mobile phone increases the risk of a crash by about 4 times. And yet in some countries up to 90 percent of people use mobile phones while driving. We must instil [sic] a culture of road safety. A culture in which driving while distracted – on the phone, or text messaging – is unacceptable. … I want every driver in the world to get the message: Texting while driving kills. No SMS is worth SOS. The United Nations is leading by example. That is why I am issuing an administrative instruction aimed at promoting road safety, saving lives and prohibiting all drivers of UN vehicles from texting while driving. I thank the leaders here for being a driving force for road safety. Together, we have a message to all drivers of the world: Don't let using a mobile for a few seconds make you or others immobile for life.
In March, the UN General Assembly [official website] proclaimed the period from 2011 to 2020 as the Decade of Action for Road Safety [press release] to encourage global efforts to halt or reverse the increasing trend in road traffic deaths and injuries around the world.
Several countries have been enacting cell phone use bans while operating motor vehicles in response to the increase in cell phone related accidents. In October, Ontario enacted a law banning the use of handheld devices [JURIST report] while driving, outlawing text messaging and talking on a cell phone while behind the wheel. Ontario joins other jurisdictions in Canada and the US to pass similar bans including Quebec, Nova Scotia, Newfoundland, Labrador, California, and New York. Earlier this October, US President Barack Obama signed [JURIST report] an executive order [text] making it illegal for federal employees or government contractors to use text messaging while driving. Despite numerous studies showing that drivers using handheld phones are more likely to get into a crash or near crash, some have criticized bans on using technology while driving. Dave McCurdy, CEO of the Auto Alliance [advocacy website], an automobile industry advocacy group, cautioned [Huffington Post op-ed] that increasing restrictions on technology use in automobiles may cross a threshold and hinder more than help. But the Auto Alliance's official position [press release] supports legislation that bans text messaging while driving.