There is nearly a one-in-five chance that, if you are injured in a car crash, distraction was to blame. Many things can cause distractions—think of the toy aliens operating the pedal and the brakes in Toy Story. You can truly save a life (and be “eternally grateful’) by avoiding distractions while behind the wheel.
What are common things drivers take their eyes off the road for?
Texting while driving is an increasingly common problem, especially among young drivers. 39 states have some kind of anti-texting laws; Utah’s is one of the toughest, with possible criminal penalties and fines of up to $750. In November 2012, Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood urged Florida, one of the 11 states with no anti-texting, to pass applicable legislation. Kristin Murphy, a resident of Naples, FL who lost her pregnant daughter in an accident where the driver of the other car was on a cellphone, was among the participants in the panel. About 3,000 people are killed and 400,000 injured in crashes involving distracted driving each year in the United States.
When you send a text, your eyes are off the road and on your phone for an average of 4.6 seconds – the equivalent of driving the length of a football field blindfolded. This problem is especially acute among teens. 40% of those surveyed said they had been in a car where the driver used their cell in a dangerous way. Overall, texting increases your risk of crashing by an astounding factor of 23.
Not all states that outlaw texting, outlaw talking on a cell phone, and vice versa. Cell phone usage is undeniably a major hazard on our roadways. Even using a hands-free device, a loophole in many state laws, increases your risk of crashing four times over driving distraction-free. On January 15, 23-year-old Mohamed Moussa of Connecticut ran through a red light while chatting on his cell phone. His vehicle crashed into a car, and he fled the scene, but cops were able to track him due to his license plate number. He was charged with “reckless driving, evading responsibility, failure to obey a traffic signal and distracted driving.”
If you cause a crash while driving distracted, it is likely that you will have other charges heaped upon you.
They may drive on the other side of the street in the United Kingdom, but that does not appear to have granted them immunity to the perils of distracted driving. About half a million crashes each year (in a country whose population is a fifth of that of the United States) were caused by women applying mascara and touching up their rouge while behind the wheel. Much like texting, young drivers were most at fault—specifically, females aged 17 to 21.
Eating and Drinking
70 percent of drivers admit to eating while driving, and over 80 percent sip from their collective lattes, Diet Pepsis, and flavor-infused water bottles. Unwrapping a burger or blowing your coffee to cool it can be just as hands-on and distracting as sending a text.
A Massachusetts teen was reaching for a McDonald’s bag and crashed into a state trooper’s car in August 2012. Tia Grover, much like Mr. Mousa, was hit with multiple charges ” failure to yield to a traffic signal, failure to wear a seat belt, and impeded operation of a motor vehicle for having food in her lap.” As the language of the charges shows, sometimes states have laws against distracted driving that may not be called such, but effectively prosecute it.
Cars are now installed with more gizmos and entertainment systems than most living rooms. Presumably for the benefit of today’s screen-addicted, slack-jawed children, adult drivers can certainly become distracted from flashing screens, adjusting their CD player or iPod, or perhaps most strangely, Honey Boo Boo.
Jennifer Lawrence, star of The Hunger Games and the Oscar-nominated turn in Silver Linings Playbooks, recently caused a fender-bender. While driving past a breast cancer parade, she saw a synonym for “breasts” which begins with “boo” on a large parade sign. “I thought it was saying, ‘Boo Boo,'” Lawrence said. “So I was like, ‘Well, does that mean there’s Honey Boo Boo?’ So I started craning my neck and then I saw a little girl.” She craned her neck, and taking her eyes off the road, rearended the car in front of her.
What to Do as a Driver or Victim
If your hands are on the wheel, your eyes should be on the road, plain and simple. Silence or turn off your cell phone. Save the chalupa for after you’ve safely parked. Don’t try to strain to see if child pageant contestants are marching in parades.
If you or a loved one has been injured or involved in a fatal car accident where distracted driving was involved, you could very well have legal recourse. In Utah, the penalties are high – a misdemeanor for injury-causing texting while driving, and a felony and up to a $10,000 fine if the victim was killed. Do not hesitate to contact Christensen & Hymas if you were injured by a texting driver by calling 801-506-0800. You may also order your FREE accident book, or call . We all have to join in the fight against distracted driving – if that email just can’t wait, hop on the FrontRunner instead!
Image courtesy of F.H. Mira