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Officials say risky actions should stop

CONYERS -- Georgia residents are just some of the people Oprah Winfrey wants to refrain from using their cell phones while driving Friday -- and every other day.

Earlier this year, Winfrey vowed to hold a national No Phone Zone Day to bring attention to the issue of distracted drivers.

"A call or text isn't worth taking a life," Winfrey said in a press release. "We must not allow more mothers and fathers, daughters and sons, sisters and brothers to die before we take action against distracted driving. Let's put a stop to it now."

Many transportation safety organizations are heeding her words, declaring Friday as the first national No Phone Zone Day.

"I've made it my mission at the DOT to end distracted driving," U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood said in the release. "We know that if we can get people to put away cell phones and other electronic devices when they are behind the wheel, we can save thousands of lives and prevent hundreds of thousands of injuries every year. That's why I'm proud to support and participate in Oprah's No Phone Zone Day.

Locally, both adults and students have been killed in driving accidents caused by distractions and other problems. Driver education instructors are trying to reduce those figures.

"Texting while driving is so dangerous and unnecessary," said Charlie Bryant, driver education instructor for Rockdale County Public Schools. "Are our friends going to be less of a friend if we delay responses and/or messages to them? I really think not."

If students -- or adults -- feel they can't wait to make a call, send a text or check an e-mail until they get out of their car, Bryant advised them to wait until they are stopped at a red light or to pull over in a safe place to do so -- even though he still advises against that.

"I commend the states and their legislators that have made it illegal to text or talk and drive," Bryant said. "Driving in the traffic conditions we have today requires greater concentration and focus than ever before."

He encourages Georgia legislators to follow in other states' steps and also keep up with new technologies.

"With automobiles becoming more and more electronically sophisticated, I would imagine that in another three to seven years, talking on the phone will seem minor compared to other devices that will be available to drivers in their cars," Bryant said.

Winfrey is holding rallies in Atlanta, Boston, Washington, D.C., Detroit and Los Angeles on Friday, when viewers can watch a live panel discussion on the dangers of texting and talking on cell phones while driving. Many states, including Georgia, are trying to outlaw the risky behavior because of an increase in wrecks caused by unfocused drivers on cell phones.

Atlanta's 9 a.m. event is at the Ferst Center for the Arts on the campus of the Georgia Institute of Technology. Admission is free.

The Associated Press contributed to this article.