April Is Distracted Driving Awareness Month

Several years ago, the National Safety Council (NSC) designated April as Distracted Driving Awareness Month. It is now a united effort by many agencies and other non-governmental organizations (NGOs) to eliminate preventable deaths from distracted driving.

Researchers and law enforcement officials seem to agree that using smartphones – especially for texting – is the primary cause of distracted driving accidents. But in-vehicle infotainment systems are also prominent distracting agents. Add to that the traditional eating behind the wheel, applying makeup, griping at the kids misbehaving in the back seat, and getting lost in conversation with other passengers, and there are too many things to draw our attention from safely operating our motor vehicles.

But It’s Texting While Driving That Injures and Kills Most of Us

The NSC says around one out of every four accidents in the United States is caused by texting and driving.

  • Texting while driving is six times more likely to cause an accident than driving drunk, according to the Council.
  • Distracted driving of only five seconds is enough time to travel the length of a football field at 55 miles an hour…while DRIVING BLIND.
  • 94 percent of drivers support a ban on texting while driving, and 74 percent of adult drivers support a ban on ANY hand-held cell phone use
  • Yet many drivers obviously still use their smartphones. Don’t you find that ironic?

Since 2005, almost every state has passed some form of a ban on texting while driving. There are four types:

  • Primary enforcement on ALL drivers
  • Secondary enforcement on ALL drivers
  • Primary enforcement on young drivers and secondary enforcement on all other drivers
  • Primary enforcement ONLY on young drivers.

Under primary enforcement, police officers can stop a vehicle if they observe the driver texting and driving. Secondary enforcement means a driver can be charged with texting and driving only if police stop the vehicle for some other suspected offense.

A 2013-14 study by the University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Public Health examined the impact of these various texting bans on motor vehicle fatalities from 2000-2010. Published by the American Journal of Public Health, UAB researchers found that states with primary enforcement laws – where police can pull over a driver for texting and driving as the sole cause – saw a three-percent drop in traffic fatalities across all age groups, an average of 19 fewer deaths each year. Texting bans against only young drivers aged 15-21 experienced the greatest reduction in fatalities – 11 percent.

According to the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, more than half of teen drivers use a cell phone while driving, and almost one in three admit to typing or sending a text message while driving during the month before they were surveyed.

Technology Answers Help (Somewhat)

In the past few years, a variety of tech innovations have been developed to help curb the effects of distracted driving. According to another recent survey, drivers appear to like the idea, as over half of those in an NSC survey said they would welcome and use them.

Forward-Collision Warning (FCW), Automatic Emergency Braking (AEB), and Lane Departure Warning (LDW) features on newer cars certainly do their share in grabbing many distracted drivers back to their behind-the-wheel reality before they lose control of their vehicle.

Smartphone apps are also available to help curb cell phone distraction and to notify parents when teenage drivers are texting while driving.  Continued research and advancement of driverless cars promise to one day free all of us to be merely passengers on networks of driving systems. Until that day comes, however, everyone needs to focus on the road and not on all the distractions that can take our attention away from our responsibility.

If you’ve been injured by a distracted driver, we at Kaplan Lawyers PC are available to answer your legal questions arising from these accidents and to thoroughly investigate the matter. Give us a call or fill out our online form to arrange a free case evaluation.