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Distracted Diving – Dangers and Underreporting

By David Wolf, Attorney
Published by Child Injury Lawyer Network

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Distracted drivers are becoming more prominent as we grow into a more technological nation. It is estimated 11% of American motorists talk on their cellphones while driving, and 26% of 16-17-year-old drivers text while driving, even though 36 states ban texting while driving.

In 2009, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reported that 5,400 people were killed in car accidents that involved distracted drivers with 995 of those automobile accidents involving a hand-held cellphone. In addition, 448,000 were injured. These numbers continue to increase every year.

Fatalities continue to increase as technology grows. Today, smartphones allow users to download apps where they can check their email, sports center, Facebook, horoscopes, weather, stock prices, and play games. While it is convenient to have these applications, the convenience and technology only add distractions to drivers. Drivers are using these apps while driving when they should be paying attention to the road, traffic, other drivers, pedestrians, and bicyclists.

The “no texting while driving” laws help deter some people from engaging in activities that distract drivers. There are now new issues that make drivers even more distracted. For example, if a customer purchases a new car today, he or she is able to download apps right to the car. A driver may be able to upload photos, YouTube videos, etc. while driving.

Although these operations can be activated with voice recognition, voice recognition can still be just as distracting, says the National Safety Council. The Council also says that hands-free cell phones can be just as distracting as hand-held cell phones. They claim that it is not so much the phone that is distracting, but the conversation in general.

The only way to decrease the numbers of distracted drivers is for law enforcement to buckle down on the use of cell phones while driving. One study concluded that tough law enforcement will decrease the number of drivers who use their cell phones. The NHTSA concluded a year-long study where police officials in Hartford, Connecticut, and Syracuse, New York, aggressively enforced a cellphone ban and closely observed motorists’ cellphone use. Police in both cities issued nearly 10,000 tickets for talking or texting on cellphones while driving. As a result, cellphone use while driving declined 57% in Hartford and 32% in Syracuse. In addition, texting while driving fell 72% in Hartford and 32% in Syracuse.

It is important that drivers realize the importance of distractions while driving. Not only could distracted drivers kill or injure themselves, but they could also kill or injure other people. Law enforcement agents need to be strict in regards to this issue. Perhaps fear of cell phone citation will help alleviate the growing problem.

For more information, see Distracted Drivers.