National Distracted Driving Awareness Month

April is National Distracted Driving Awareness Month.

If you were driving while you read that, there’s a chance you may have caused a crash.

The facts are indisputable: distracted drivers are a menace, causing a growing number of fatal car crashes.  According to the U.S. Department of Transportation’s most recent statistics, 3,166 people in this country were killed in distracted-driving accidents in 2017.

But that number could be low.  The National Safety Council says that fatal distracted driving crashes are likely underreported as few states capture data following traffic accidents that could point to distracted driving, including texting and hand-held cell phone use.

But cell phone use is not the only driver distraction that can lead to a serious or fatal car wreck. Ohio State University’s The Risk Institute recently surveyed Americans who drive at least three times a week and own a smart phone.  Researchers asked the drivers numerous questions about their distracted driving perceptions and habits.

Types of Driver Distractions that Cause Accidents

Cell phone use was not the top distracted driving behavior.  In descending order, drivers reported these as their top distractions:

·         Adjusting music

·         Adjusting GPS

·         Talking on cell phone

·         Reading texts

·         Sending texts

·         Other phone use

·         Watching movies

And drivers who believe they were the most competent were found to be the most prone to distraction temptations.  Almost seven out of 10 people who said their driving was better-than-average reported more dangerously distracted behaviors than those who said they were below average.

In short, the more self-assured drivers likely take the most risks.

Brain Can’t Safely Process Driving and Talking on Phone

Driving distracted – especially while using a cell phone – is too difficult to do safely.  According to a white paper from the National Safety Council (“Understanding the Distracted Brain.  Why Driving While Using Hands-Free Cell Phones is Risky Behavior”) people cannot actually multitask, such as driving while talking on a cell phone.  The brain can only focus on one task at a time, switching quickly back and forth between tasks.

But when it juggles between the tasks, it doesn’t clearly focus on either.  So while talking on a phone a driver may miss a pedestrian or stopped traffic ahead. Experienced, confident drivers may be able to handle routine driving tasks while on the phone but they may not be able to adjust quickly enough to surprises.

For commercial drivers, such as big-rig truckers, driving distracted can be especially catastrophic.  Passenger cars offer little protection against a fully-loaded tractor-trailer piloted by a driver looking down at his or her phone or reaching for a sandwich.

The National Safety Council also notes that as distracted driving behavior grows, so does employers’ liability when their distracted employees cause a crash that harms others.

Ending distracted driving should be a year-round effort.  People today surely understand the havoc they can cause when they drive carelessly.  They should be held accountable when their negligence harms others.

If you were seriously hurt or lost a loved one in a motor vehicle accident caused by another driver, turn to a motor vehicle accident attorney to establish the facts and pursue your legal rights against all those responsible.

The choice of a lawyer is an important decision that should not be based solely on advertisements.

Authored by Gray, Ritter & Graham, P.C., posted in Blog April 9, 2019