Since cell phones have become so small, portable and accessible, the temptation to use them while driving is irresistible to many people. While there are 46 states with laws that ban texting while driving by all drivers, only 14 states ban their usage altogether, and some only prohibit minors or those under 21 from using them. Regardless of the state or whatever law is in place, a substantial number of drivers ignore the law and continue to talk, text, or read their messages while operating a motor vehicle.
Driving is an activity that poses substantial dangers to the driver, other motorists, pedestrians, road workers and bicyclists. Even at relatively slow speeds, a driver who is distracted for just a few seconds is more apt to collide with a pedestrian or cyclist, another car or object, leading to injuries or death.
There are, of course, other activities that can distract a driver, including talking, rubber necking, playing with the radio, grooming, eating or reading. Any time your eyes are not focused on the roadway is because you are distracted by some activity you are engaged in or some event you are observing. However, use of a cell phone is the main culprit in distracted driving and the focus of state laws and media campaigns to alert everyone to its dangers.
Some statistics compiled by the National Safety Council bear out the dangers that distracted driving provides to drivers, passengers and anyone else on or using the roadways:
- In 2013, there were about 1.5 million crashes attributed to mobile phone use, including hands-free models
- 9 people die each day on the highways because a driver was using a phone in some manner
- You are 4 times more likely to be in a car crash if you use a phone while driving
- A driver takes his/her eyes off the road for an average of 5 seconds to send a text message
- 40% of teens surveyed report that they have been in car when the driver used their phone in such a manner as to present a substantial risk
If you are driving at 60 miles per hour, your vehicle will travel about 476 feet, or more than the length of a football field in mere seconds. Any number of hazards can present themselves within this time. Because cell phone use has become a substantial factor in so many car accidents, many observers feel it is as insidious as drunk driving, though the penalties are nowhere near as severe.
Avoid Becoming a Statistic
Using your cell phone while driving is rarely a necessity unless there is an emergency. Many newer cars have Bluetooth technology so that you can talk hands-free, though this still is a distraction. If you must text or read an email, pull over and park your car. Better still, turn your phone off or put it away so that any temptation to use it is eliminated.
If you are a passenger and your driver decides to text or call, politely ask that he/she refrain while you are in the car. Talk to your son or daughter about mobile phone use while driving and become a model by following your own advice.
Car accidents are caused by a variety of factors with distracted driving a common one. Driving while distracted leads to rear-end collisions, unsafe lane changes, running red lights and hitting pedestrians. Some courts are allowing injured victims to allege punitive damages if cell phone use is proved and was the main factor in the accident. These are damages that can be awarded in addition to damages for medical expenses, lost wages and pain and suffering, the usual damages awarded in car accident injury claims. It generally involves some other aggravating factor, however, such as excessive speeding or alcohol use before a court will allow such damages to be alleged.
To show negligent or reckless conduct, a personal injury attorney can request phone records if use of the cell phone by the responsible driver is alleged and liability is otherwise in dispute. Should this be a red light case, a camera might show that the driver was on the phone as the car entered the intersection. If the attorney can show a correlation between the time of the accident and cell phone use, then proof of negligent conduct may be more readily shown.
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