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 phone use while driving through the loss of 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 April 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 phone use while driving:
a) Drivers who use cell phones are four times more likely than other drivers to be in a crash that causes injury.
b) About 80 percent of crashes are related to driver distraction. The leading source of driver inattention is phones.
c) Simulator research shows that drivers using phones have slower reaction times and are more likely to get in a crash than drunk drivers (at the .08 level).
d) 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 dependent 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 phone is even less likely to see me, which puts me at greater risk.”