Distracted driving is an epidemic on America’s roadways. In 2011, 3,331 people were killed in crashes involving a distracted driver. An additional 387,000 people were injured in motor vehicle crashes involving a distracted driver.
Distracted driving is any activity that could divert a person’s attention away from the primary task of driving. All distractions endanger driver, passenger, and bystander safety. These types of distractions include:
- Using a cell phone or smartphone
- Eating and drinking
- Talking to passengers
- Reading, including maps
- Using a navigation system
- Watching a video
- Adjusting a radio, CD player or MP3 player
One of the most alarming and widespread forms of distracted driving is cell phone usage.
According to a Carnegie Mellon study, driving while using a cell phone reduces the amount of brain activity associated with driving by 37 percent. And a report from the National Safety
Council found that more than one out of every four traffic accidents is caused by people talking on cell phones or sending text messages. See, www.distraction.gov/content/get-the-facts.html.
“Distracted driving is an epidemic on America’s roadways, and we’re doing our part to help put an end to it,” said U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood. “Texting and cell phone use while driving is extremely dangerous, and we know simply getting drivers to turn their phones off when they get behind the wheel will make our roads significantly safer.”
Text messaging is of heightened concern because it combines three types of distraction
– visual, manual and cognitive. In other words, texting involves taking your eyes off the road, your hands off the wheel, and your mind off the task of driving. 39 states and the District of
Columbia ban text messaging for all drivers. 10 states and the District of Columbia prohibit all drivers from using handheld cell phones while driving.
In Missouri, there is a ban on texting for novice drivers. It is a primary law meaning that an officer can ticket the driver for the offense without any other traffic violation taking place.
 By contrast, a secondary law means an officer can only issue a ticket if a driver has been pulled over for another violation (like speeding).
Illinois has passed the following laws:
1. Ban on all cell phone use (handheld and hands-free) for bus drivers (Primary law)
2. Ban on all cell phone use (handheld and hands-free) for novice drivers (Primary law)
3. Ban on texting for all drivers (Primary law)
4. Ban on use of cell phones while driving in a school zone or in a highway construction
The U.S. Department of Transportation has initiated a regulatory campaign against distracted driving in an effort that includes automobiles, trains, planes, and commercial vehicles.
The following regulations have been enacted:
On September 30, 2009, President Obama signed an Executive Order directing federal employees not to engage in text messaging:
While driving government-owned vehicles;
When using electronic equipment supplied by the government while driving; or
While driving privately owned vehicles when they’re on official government business.
The order also encourages federal contractors and others doing business with the government to adopt and enforce their own policies banning texting while driving on the job.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) banned commercial truck and bus drivers from texting while driving in September 2010, and later banned all handheld cell phone use by commercial drivers in November 2011.
-Drivers of Hazardous Materials
In February 2011, the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) banned texting on electronic devices by drivers operating a motor vehicle containing hazardous materials, in conjunction with the proposed FMCSA ban.
The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) banned rail employees from using cell phones or other electronic devices on the job following a September 2008 Metrolink crash in Chatsworth, California that killed 25 people.
After a Northwest flight crew distracted by a laptop overshot their destination by 150 miles, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) advised air carriers to create and enforce policies that limit distractions in the cockpit and keep pilots focused on transporting passengers safely.
Bad habits while driving can lead to careless driving and increased accidents.
If you are injured by a distracted driver and would like to speak with an experienced personal injury attorney, contact Gray, Ritter & Graham, P.C.