Since 2010, the U.S. Department of Transportation has designated April as National Distracted Driving Awareness Month. Distracted driving occurs whenever a motorist focuses on something other than the road: Phone calls, text messages, online videos, and food are a few examples. Such distractions can last mere seconds, but the consequences can lead to long-lasting tragedy.
Driving requires a person’s undivided concentration. When that concentration is diluted, the results can be deadly. In 2012, 3,328 Americans died in vehicular accidents related to distracted driving. Additionally, about 421,000 people were injured in such crashes that year.
There are three basic categories of driving distractions: manual, visual, and cognitive. Manual distractions involve taking the hands off of the steering wheel in order to do something else. The visual category includes anything requiring drivers to look away from the road. And cognitive distractions occur when motorists think about matters other than driving; they're prevalent among drivers who are in highly emotional states.
Phone usage may be the most dangerous driver distraction because it’s visual, manual, and cognitive. You touch the phone, look at the screen, and think about your conversation. Indeed, a driver who's texting is 23 times more likely to crash than one who's paying attention. Even so, during every minute of daylight in the U.S., about 660,000 drivers are using an electronic device such as a cell phone as they drive.
Further, it takes about five seconds to read or compose the average text message. On a highway, a car can travel hundreds of feet in five seconds. And sudden obstacles can certainly appear in the span of a few hundred feet.
Disturbingly, there seems to be a widespread permissiveness in our society when it comes to distracted driving. In January 2013, the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety released a survey in which 65 percent of respondents admitted to fairly often or regularly reading text messages while driving during the previous 30 days. Meanwhile, 53 percent of those survey-takers confessed to typing or sending texts fairly often or regularly as they drove during that same period.
Fortunately, there are simple steps that people can take to reduce vehicular casualties. First, stop using phones while driving. If you’re on the road and realize that you must immediately send a text, ask a passenger to do it for you. If you’re alone, pull over. Also, when you're riding in a vehicle with a driver who begins to use a cell phone or otherwise becomes distracted, politely ask that person to refocus. And if you’re chatting on the phone or texting with someone who mentions that he or she is driving, instruct the person to pay attention to that task. At that point, abruptly end the conversation.
A centerpiece of the National Distracted Driving Awareness campaign is the End Distracted Driving Pledge. Consider taking this pledge, and encourage your family members, friends, and social media followers to do likewise. This vow contains three parts. Pledgees promise to:
Whether or not you take this pledge, there’s another compelling reason to pay attention when driving: the law. Across the U.S., statutes outlawing distracted driving now exist. In Minnesota, primary laws prohibit texting while driving. Plus, the state's novice drivers are forbidden from using cell phones behind the wheel, and bus drivers may not handle phones when they're operating buses.
If you're ever injured, or if a loved one is ever injured or killed in a car accident caused by a negligent driver, you may be legally entitled to compensation. Serious injuries can lead to unexpected, life-long financial burdens and medical care. And the only way to be sure that you'll receive the restitution you deserve is to have a consummate attorney at your side.
The lawyers at Schwebel, Goetz & Sieben are your advocates, expertly fighting for the rights of car accident victims for more than 40 years, and getting results. The firm consistently obtains sizable damages for clients in courtrooms and through settlements and can do the same for you. Call (612) 377-7777 or toll-free at 1-800-752-4265 for a free consultation.