On April 28, 2011, Dr. Robert Okerblom of Santa Maria, Calif., is scheduled to pedal into St. Augustine as he approaches the final leg of a 3,000-mile public awareness campaign. He began his cross-country, solo bicycle trek from San Diego, Calif., Feb. 28 in hopes of raising public awareness of the dangers of distracted driving, particularly texting while driving. Okerblom, a family practitioner in Orcutt, Calif., also hopes the ride will help him regain inner peace after the tragic death of his own son at the hand of a distracted driver. Eric, 19, was on a training ride when he was hit and killed by a distracted driver.
The story of Eric Okerblom’s tragic death at the hand of a texting young driver is now featured on the U.S. Department of Transportation’s websites including the front page of Distraction.gov: http://www.distraction.gov/. He also has his own page on the website: http://www.distraction.gov/faces/eric-okerblom.html. Secretary LaHood featured the story on his Fast Lane blog this morning, and the DOT has also issued its own national release on the issue of distracted driving. And, finally, there is a link to download Eric’s video for use offline: https://dotmediacenter.onehub.com/d/e7fy/
Dr. Okerblom may speak at area schools or other organizations while he’s in town. Please contact him directly to catch up with the constantly evolving speaking schedule, photos while on the road and to arrange your own interview. Okerblom is carrying a cell phone and can be reached when he’s off pedals. His number is 805-705-3103. You can follow Dr. Bob’s trip at (http://eofoundation.blogspot.com/). You can also learn about the eFoundation here (http://www.eofoundation.net/).
In addition, U.S. DOT Public Affairs Specialist Justine Adelizzi can answer any questions you may have about the U.S. DOT’s take on this very important issue. She can be reached at (202) 366-5551, on her cell at (202) 570-6083 or by e-mail at email@example.com
— “City councilman pushes for cell phone usage in vehicles ban,” The Shorthorn (Arlington, Texas)
— “Texting While Driving: How Dangerous Is It?” Car & Driver magazine
— “Texting caused total ‘distracted driving’ deaths to rise, study finds,” Christian Science Monitor
— “Cell phone distraction causes one in four US car crashes,” Christian Science Monitor
— Virginia Tech Transportation Institute study on distracted driving
— Original news story about Eric Okerblom’s fatal accident – KCOY, Santa Maria
— Follow up story on sentencing – KSBY, Santa Maria
— News related to the Okerblom accident – various sources
FAST FACTS (from TurnOffTexting.com):
> Using a hand-held cell phone increases the likelihood of a collision by four times, equal to the risk of drunken driving.
> Texting increases the risk by 23 times (5.7 times greater than drunk driving).
> The average young driver texts about 70 times per day. 90% of teenagers admit to texting while driving.
> Most teenagers mistakenly believe that texting while driving is safer than drunk driving.
> Many states refuse to regulate hand held devices while driving, weakly enforce regulations, or have trivial penalties for violations. Automobile makers, cell phone producers and service providers minimize the risk of the devices they provide. About 7 percent of California drivers are using a hand held phone at any given time.
> More Americans die annually (about 6,000) from cell phone distraction than have been killed in both the combined Iraq and Afghan Wars.