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Oprah Joins Highway Safety Advocates In Discouraging Distracted Driving

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Hundreds gathered at the Newseum today to watch a live taping of the Oprah Winfrey Show. Winfrey devoted her entire show to discouraging the use of cell phones while driving.
David Schultz
Hundreds gathered at the Newseum today to watch a live taping of the Oprah Winfrey Show. Winfrey devoted her entire show to discouraging the use of cell phones while driving.

By David Schultz

In front of the Newseum in downtown D.C., there's a simulation that shows what can happen when your eyes - and your mind - drift away from the road.

The "distracted drivers" climb into a parked Ford Mustang convertible, and put on computerized goggles showing a typical highway scene. Then, they're asked to reach down and check their phone.

"And you just crashed," the simulator operator says. "I'm sorry."

Using a hand held cell phone while driving is banned in some areas, but that hasn't stopped people from doing it.

D.C. police have written 11,000 tickets for distracted driving since the District's cell phone ban went into effect six years ago.

Deborah Hersman, with the National Transportation Safety Board, says the prevalance of cell phones today makes this problem a difficult one to solve.

"It's almost like an epidemic," she says. "Over 80 percent of Americans own cell phones. So this is a real challenge."

Inside the Newseum, hundreds of people are watching an enormous projection screen showing a live taping of the Oprah Winfrey Show.

"Texting or talking on your phone while you're driving is as dangerous as driving drunk," Winfrey says. "That's a fact."

The talk show host organized rallies in five cities to raise awareness of distracted driving and create, what she calls, a "No Phone Zone."

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