WASHINGTON, D.C. --- A new nonprofit group, called FocusDriven and sponsored in part by the U.S. Department of Transportation, has formed to discourage people from using cell phones and texting devices while driving. 

U.S. Transportation Sec. Ray LaHood on Tuesday, Jan. 12, introduced the group during a press conference focused on the problem of distracted driving. The group said it is modeling itself after Mothers Against Drunk Driving, which has been successful in raising public awareness about the dangers of drunken driving. 

Several members of FocusDriven have lost loved ones in traffic collisions involving drivers who were distracted by their cell phones. The group's president, Jennifer Smith, lost her mother in a 2008 collision involving a driver talking on his cell phone.

More than 500,000 people were injured and nearly 6,000 people were killed in 2009 in vehicle accidents involving a driver who was distracted while using a cell phone or texting device, the U.S. Department of Transportation reported during the press conference.  

"Distracted driving is a serious, life-threatening epidemic that steals loved ones from us and puts responsible drivers in danger," LaHood said.

An estimated 100 people die each day in traffic accidents in the United States, National Safety Council President Janet Froetscher added during the press conference. The council has called for a total ban on cell phone use while driving.

"Twenty-eight percent of all crashes are caused by the use of cell phone and texting devices each year," Froetscher said.

"We estimate that 25 percent of crashes, or 1.4 million crashes each year, are caused by drivers using their cell phones, and an additional 3 percent are caused by drivers that are using texting devices," Froetscher added.