Distracted Driving - It's Epidemic (part two of Distracted Driving Series)

The prevalence of distracted driving yields disturbing data from numerous studies and sources on the rising number of vehicular accidents involving fatalities or injuries to drivers, passengers and others.

How serious are the dangers? Deadly serious. Some frightening facts: (1)

Researcher David Strayer of the University of Utah found that talking on a cell phone quadruples your risk of an accident, about the same as if you were driving drunk. That risk doubles again, to eight times normal, if you are texting.

A 2009 study sponsored by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration examined commercial vehicle crashes and concluded that text messaging creates a crash risk 23 times greater than driving without distraction.

Sending or receiving a text message distracts a driver for about five seconds; at highway speeds. That represents a distance of about 300 feet in which the car is essentially out of human control, driving itself.

According to the NHTSA, over 3,331 people were killed and over 387,000 injured in motor vehicle accidents connected to distracted driving. That represents 10 percent of all fatal crashes and 17 percent of all accidents that caused injuries. The National Safety Council disputes these findings, and says that at least 28 percent of vehicle crashes are caused by texting and cell phone use alone—never mind other distractions.

Young drivers are at the greatest risk for distracted driving incidents. Some researchers speculate that this is because inexperienced drivers are the most likely to overestimate their ability to multitask. The NHTSA says that in 2009, some 16 percent of teen drivers involved in a fatal crash were reported to have been distracted.

Are drivers taking this seriously enough?

No. Surveys find that adults recognize that other drivers are behaving irresponsibly, but they find excuses for their own risky driving behavior.

In a survey from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, over 90 percent of drivers recognized the danger from cell phone distractions and found it “unacceptable” that drivers text or send e-mail while driving. Nevertheless, 35 percent of these same people admitted to having read or sent a text message or e-mail while driving in the previous month. Similarly, two-thirds of the survey respondents admitted to talking on a cell phone, even though 88 percent found it a threat to safety.

Asking drivers to change their ways and laws making texting and driving illegal seem to have had little effect, as statistics indicate ever-increasing incidents of distracted driving, with often disastrous results.

The American Journal of Public Health (November 2010, Vol. 100, No. 11) cites increasing numbers of fatalities recorded since 2005, and concludes that ‘Distracted driving is a growing public safety hazard. Specifically, the dramatic rise in texting volume since 2005 appeared to be contributing to an alarming rise in distracted driving fatalities,’ and recommended ‘legislation enacting texting bans paired with effective enforcement to deter drivers from using cell phones while driving.’ (2)

Their statistics provided a conclusion that ‘recent and rapid increases in texting volumes have resulted in thousands of additional road fatalities yearly in the United States.’ While the general public’s awareness of distracted driving is more widespread, changes to driving behavior may not be.

According to the ‘New Hampshire Distracted Driving Study,’ prepared by Mt. Washington Assurance Corporation, grassroots efforts to change distracted driving behavior may prove challenging as 74% of passengers have not asked drivers to put their mobile devices down while their cars are in motion, nor are most drivers willing to refrain from using their own mobile devices. (3)

The courts may provide more compelling incentives to stop talking or texting while driving. The New Hampshire Supreme Court in New Hampshire v. Chad Belleville, October 17, 2013, ruled that the defendant be found guilty of criminal negligence and recklessness, for failure ‘to pay due attention’ while checking a text message, resulting serious injury to a child.

In the case of New Hampshire v. Lynn Dion, October 2012, a jury found the defendant guilty of negligent homicide after killing a woman in a cross walk, and failing to exercise due care in avoiding the collision, after admittedly using her cell phone while driving.

These cases are on appeal, but clearly fault is being assessed against drivers who cause injury or death as a result of distracted driving.

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Were you or a loved one a injured in an auto accident involving a distracted driver? If so please call the Injury Law Center® for a free case evaluation with one of our experienced auto accident attorneys.

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References:

(1) http://www.enddd.org/research-stats/

(2) Trends in Fatalities From Distracted Driving in the United States, 1999 to 2008

Fernando A. Wilson, Jim P. Stimpson

American Journal of Public Health: November 2010, Vol. 100, No. 11, pp. 2213-221

(3) http://www.businesswire.com/news/home/20130923005750/en/Mt.-Washington-Assurance-Study-Finds-Quarter

Traffic Safety (http://www.enddd.org/research-stats/#r1); distracted driving

photo credit: drive and text via photopin (license)

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