Civilians are not the only ones that struggle with distracted driving. Although police officers are usually the ones enforcing laws that prohibit it, Kare 11 recently reported that 61 crashes, over the course of 48 months, involved distracted driving on the part of a police officer – a reminder that all of us are susceptible to human error.
In these cases, the squad car itself has come under fire as one possible culprit for the distraction. Sitting amidst and using a computer, radio, and cell phone while driving and scanning the roads for criminal behavior, it’s easy to see how an officer can become distracted. In fact, in the Kare 11 article, one Brooklyn Park Deputy Police Chief, Mark Bruley, goes as far as to refer to the squad car as a “mobile office.”
Although the number of crashes caused by distracted police officers is relatively low, especially considering they typically drive thousands of miles more than the average person, the increasing number gadgets is still a concern, prompting officials to search for solutions such as voice-activated controls and automatic license plate readers.
But whereas cops don’t have a lot of choice about whether or not to use the gadgets that help them do their job, civilian drivers do. And with distracted driving listed as a contributing factor in over 17,000 crashes in Minnesota each year, it’s a choice that could save your life.
Types of distracted driving
The first step in being able to say “no” to distracted driving is learning its causes.
The government’s official site for distracted driving, distraction.gov, classifies distracted driving by three categories: manual (taking your hands off the wheel), visual (taking your eyes off the road), and cognitive (taking your mind off driving). The following list of distractions, fall into one or more of these categories.
Using a cell phone or smartphone (includes texting, talking, dialing, surfing the internet, and taking selfies).
Configuring other devices that are part of the car (including GPS, heater/AC, radio or other music player, and rearview mirrors).
Talking to passengers. (This is especially distracting for teenagers.)
Eating and drinking.
Listening to loud music.
Smoking (includes lighting up, looking for cigarettes or matches, using the ashtray).
Reading (books, magazines or maps).
Generally lost in thought.
Unsecured pets that are traveling in the car.
Saying “NO” to distracted driving
New “good” habits can be hard to establish, and the temptation of using your phone can be hard to resist, particularly for teens. That’s why education is the best method for creating change and convincing drivers of all ages to commit to safe, distraction-free driving. Knowing just how dangerous it is, can make the decision to say “no” an easy one.
If you’re a parent of a young driver, share the following statistics with your teen so they have a clear picture of the reality of distracted driving. Don’t hesitate to set and enforce rules about cell phone use, loud music, and passenger interaction while they’re driving. Don’t forget, your teen learns what is okay from observing your behavior – so set a good example. The more we communicate with each other and spread the word about distracted driver the more drivers we can influence.
Each day in the United States, more than 9 people are killed and more than 1,153 people are injured in crashes that are reported to involve a distracted driver, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Drivers in their 20s make up 27 percent of the distracted drivers in fatal crashes according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Association (NHTSA).
Engaging in visual-manual subtasks (such as reaching for a phone, dialing and texting) associated with the use of hand-held phones and other portable devices increased the risk of getting into a crash by three times (VTTI).
Five seconds is the average time your eyes are off the road while texting. When traveling at 55mph, that’s enough time to cover the length of a football field blindfolded, according to the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute (VTTI).
See distraction.gov for additional stats on the reality of distracted driving.
New software to help combat distracted driving
In addition, new software is being created to help eliminate the temptation of taking a call or texting while driving. For example, Aegis Mobility has created software that can be installed onto a teen’s smartphone or other handheld device that puts the device in safe mode when a speed of about ten mph is reached, preventing the user from talking, texting, etc. Your kid might not love you for it, but it may save their life or the life of another driver.
The cost of the software is typically $4 per month, but Iowa is the first state to make the software free for new teen drivers up to 17 years old. Other states are likely to soon follow suit.
If you or a loved one has been injured or killed by a distracted driver, it is very important to see a doctor immediately to document your injuries in a medical record. Then, contact Meshbesher & Spence for a consultation with our personal injury attorneys. Our attorneys are available to visit you in the hospital or in your home as well as in our offices and will help you determine if you will be able to recover damages for your injuries.