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Distracted Driving

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The dangers of distracted driving go well beyond a potential unintended lane change. Drivers put everyone around them at risk when they talk on the phone, send text messages or pay attention to other electronic devices.

The electronics industry has begun lobbying to change the focus of distracted driving legislation to include all distractions rather than pointing so directly to electronic devices. The industry claims that laws outlawing the use of cells phones while driving have not reduced the number of crashes.

While it’s true the laws have been ineffectual, this is more likely the result of poor law enforcement. Cell phone use while driving remains on the rise, despite growing public sentiment and regulations against the practice. Studies in simulators and in fleets of high-tech fitted vehicles have shown increased risk of crashes with the use of electronic devices.

When looking at crash statistics and driver distraction, it’s important to consider the age of data being used. For instance, a 2001 AAA report shows that 25% of crashes are caused by driver distraction, but most of those distractions were from sources outside the vehicle. Of course, cell phone use has skyrocketed since 2001. Texting did not become popular until 2000 and use has exploded since then. With technological changes happening so fast, a ten-year-old study may no longer be valid.

But some statistics have remained consistent over past ten years. For instance, drivers under age 20 are the most likely to be distracted by internal sources. The remaining age groups were most affected by events outside the vehicle.

Finding studies on the subject less than two years old can be a challenge. Another difficult is finding studies done on US populations, rather than in other countries. The source of funding for the reports is also important. For instance, one Plantronics study showed no difference in distraction for cell phone use versus passenger conversation, despite numerous independent studies to the contrary.

That being said, the statistics are still alarming, if only because law enforcement has largely ignored the regulations that are in place in some states. More people are dying because of distracted drivers than ever before. According to the National Safety Council (NSC), the percentage of fatal crashes associated with distracted driving increased 4 percent from 2004 to 2008. This is despite an overall decrease in distracted driving crashes of 5%.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) performed a 20008 survey of crashes where investigators were actually at the scene of accidents to study causation. Distractions studied showed that 3 percent of crashes are caused by inattention, 11 percent by internal distractions, and 4 percent from external distraction. This study contradicts others that show outside distractions as more dangerous than cell phone use.

Childers, Schlueter & Smith urges you to put down the phone while driving. Take calls only after pulling over. Let the voicemail do its job and return phones calls after pulling off the roadway. If you have suffered serious injuries because of a distracted driver, contact us for a free consultation.

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