April 2012 is National Distracted Driving Awareness Month. As part of a nationwide effort to raise awareness of the dangers of distracted driving and to help our children make safer driving decisions trial attorneys are fanning out across the country making presentations at high schools. The presentations were developed by EndDD.org "End Distracted Driving." 60forSafety.org and Nodd.org in collaboration with safety professionals whose expertise includes framing the appropriate messages to reach teens.
Today's drivers are confronted and bombarded with a multitude of distractions while driving. Years ago there were no cell phones, GPS or 200 commercial free satellite stations. Driving is such a common every day event that we forget that a motor vehicle or light-duty truck with an average weight over 4,000 pounds is quite literally a deadly weapon.
The situation is potentially catastrophic when dealing with commercial vehicles such as tractor-trailers with a gross vehicle weight up to 80,000 pounds. In September 2010, considering the potential for large scale disasters that could injure or kill many people at once, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMSCA) issued a regulation banning texting while driving in all commercial vehicles. This was followed up with an additional ban on the use of hand held cell phones by all commercial vehicle drivers, effective January 3, 2012, 49 CFR Part 177.
Currently, 34 states in the US including Rhode Island ban texting while driving and 10 states ban handheld cell phone devices while driving all together.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NTHSA):
- Drivers who use handheld devices are 4 times more likely to be in Car Accidents with injuries;
- Drivers who TEXT and drive are 23 times more likely to get involved in Car Accidents;
- Using a cell phone and driving delays your reaction time as much as having a blood alcohol concentration of .08 (BAC);
- Even using a hands free device while driving can use up to 39% of your brain power that should be used for safe driving
Nearly 5,474 people died and half a million were injured in crashes involving a distracted driver in 2009. Distraction-related fatalities represented 16 percent of overall traffic fatalities in 2009, according to National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) research. New data released in 2011 by NHTSA using a refined methodology shows an estimated 3,092 fatalities in distraction-affected crashes in 2010. The refined methodology focuses more precisely on cell phone and electronics use as opposed to other types of distractions.
Persons who are at the greatest risk when it comes to cell phones and driving are between the ages of 16-34. Everyone however is prone to the convenient use of the cell phone or smart phone while in a vehicle. Ordering a pizza, talking to a friend or reading a tweet has become a critical emergency that just cannot wait.
Our children, in the 16 to 21 age are inexperienced drivers and often passengers in cars being driven by other inexperienced drivers and are particularly at risk. Traffic crashes are now the leading cause of death for teens. The vast majority of teen crashes are caused by one type or another of common driver distractions.
Hopefully, you are not reading this while you are behind the wheel. If you do text or engage in any other distracting activity while driving, take a moment to consider why. Do you really have to make that call, read that text or e-mail? Your world will NOT come to an end if you don't, but it may very well be the end of your life or someone else's if you do.