Cell phone distraction rates are alarmingly high. Nonetheless, drivers, especially teens and young adults are constantly plugged into technology. According to poll by the American Auto Association (AAA), 94% of teen drivers acknowledge the dangers of texting and driving, but 35% admitted to doing it anyway. They feel that they can multi-task behind the wheel because they are careful and good drivers. This can’t be further from the truth and unfortunately, the laws making it illegal to text while driving are not helping reduce the frequency.
Currently, forty-six states have texting while driving laws, yet according the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 31% of all drivers read or sent a text message in the past month. The agency estimates more than nine people are killed and more than 1,000 are injured every day in the United States in crashes linked to a distracted driver.
Don’t believe me how serious this growing epidemic is? Learn about Liz Marks. In the seconds that it took Liz to read an incoming text that said “OK”, her car ended up mangled underneath a tow truck. Miraculously, Liz survived the accident. But, she had to re-learn how to speak, walk, read and write. She is blind in one eye, can’t smell, her hearing is severely impaired, she can’t create tears because both her tear ducts were damaged, and she takes medicine to go to sleep. Now 21, Liz makes it her mission to help others learn from her mistake. She and her mom have been on the Oprah show and travel to schools nationwide to spread awareness about texting and driving. You can learn more on their Facebook page, Don’t Text N Drive 4 Liz Marks.
Although cell phone use behind the wheel is a growing concern, distracted driving comes in many other forms that are equally dangerous. New Virginia Tech research, published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, found that other distractions also greatly increase the risk of an accident. Researchers examined data from 3,500 drivers over a three-year period. They documented 1,600 crashes, including 905 more high-severity crashes, during that time. Comparing the crash rates of distracted drivers and model drivers (those who were determined to be “alert, attentive and sober”) to determine the increased crash risk, they found that 68% of the more than 900 severe crashes involved some type of observable distraction including:
- Reading and writing
- Reaching for an object other than a phone
- Using a touchscreen on a GPS or other vehicle technology
- Driving while emotional – angry, sad, crying
- Interacting with an adult or teen passenger
Tom Dingus, lead author of the study and director of the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute, said “the analysis shows that if we take no steps in the near future to limit the number of distracting activities in a vehicle, those who represent the next generation of drivers will only continue to be at greater risk of a crash.”
Everyone must do their part – policymakers, law enforcement agencies, auto makers, and the general public – to reduce the risks associated with driver distractions. There are too many preventable auto accidents for America not to take action; start by doing your part. Next time you get behind the wheel, make the right decision; give your full attention to driving.
Attorney, certified civil mediator, and award-winning author of the Zachary Blake Betrayal Series—Mark Bello is also the CEO of Lawsuit Financial and the country’s leading expert in providing non-recourse lawsuit funding to plaintiffs involved in pending litigation. He is also a member of the State Bar of Michigan, a sustaining member of the Michigan Association for Justice, and a member of the American Association for Justice.