Distracted Driving — Is It More Serious than Drunk Driving?
Recent studies conducted by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration indicate that driving a motor vehicle while sending text messages is six times more dangerous than driving while under the influence of alcohol or drugs. According to the NHTSA report, driving while operating a mobile device has become the leading cause of death and serious injury among teenage drivers. In 2012, police nationwide reported more than 3,000 deaths related to text messaging alone.
Drunk Driving Down, Distracted Driving on the Rise
Thanks to public awareness, national organizations such as Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) and stiffer enforcement of drunk driving laws, the number of alcohol-related deaths in the United States has fallen by more than half in the last 30 years. Unfortunately, during the same time the number of road fatalities due to other factors has almost doubled (up 78 percent). Currently, 40 states across the country have laws in place making it illegal to drive while sending or receiving a text message.
The NHTSA reports what it terms “an epidemic of distracted driving” as the cause of the dramatic increase in traffic deaths. And distraction is not limited to visual distraction (a driver taking their eyes off the road to look at a phone, stereo or some other device). It can also involve manual distractions, such as when a driver takes their hands off the wheel to do something, or cognitive distractions, when a driver loses mental focus on driving. The NHTSA points out that even if you have a hands-free device for your phone, such as a Bluetooth, when you are driving and talking you can put too much attention on the subject matter of your conversation and not enough attention to where you are going or what you are doing.
Some of the specific activities that the NHTSA identified as causes of motor vehicle accidents include:
- Sending or receiving text messages while driving
- Eating or drinking while driving
- Talking to other passengers, including children in the backseat
- Using a cell phone or looking up information on a smartphone
- Reading, from maps to books to papers or magazines
- Grooming, including combing hair, applying makeup or even putting on a tie
- Turning music on or off, or changing a channel
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Firm founder Kenneth A. Pryor is a member of the prestigious Million Dollar Advocates Forum. Mr. Pryor is an experienced trial lawyer who teaches trial skills as an adjunct law school professor. Our firm can provide the knowledgeable and experienced legal representation you need.