As cell phones become more of a necessity in everyday life, they also pose a threat to road and highway safety. Distracted driving, meaning driving with only partial attention to the road because of a cell phone or other communications device, rivals drunk driving as a threat to public safety. Although the total number of injuries and deaths attributable to distracted driving has decreased in recent years, the number of drivers who admit to driving while talking or texting on a cell phone has risen. Distracted driving plays a role in as many as one in four automobile accidents nationwide. A fatal car accident in Connecticut has focused the nation’s attention on the issue of driving distraction, leading to new educational campaigns and legislative efforts.
The District of Columbia joins thirty-one U.S. states in banning the use of handheld cell phones by all drivers. D.C. and thirty-eight states ban writing or sending text messages while driving, and the District bans learner’s permit holders from all cell phone use while driving, including use of a cell phone with a hands-free device like a headset. School bus drivers are similarly prohibited from all cell phone use while working.
An accident in Norwalk, Connecticut on March 24, 2012 has put a national spotlight on distracted driving. A 16 year-old girl, who was allegedly using a handheld cell phone, struck and killed a 44 year-old jogger. Connecticut has strict prohibitions on use of cell phones by novice drivers and drivers under the age of eighteen. The girl now faces multiple criminal charges, including negligent homicide with a vehicle and violation of the cell phone ban. The jogger’s father blamed the accident on the girl’s “stupidity” and has expressed support for a total ban on cell phone use, including hands-free devices, while driving. Currently, no state bans all cell phone use. The District of Columbia, for example, may allow adults to use a cell phone with a hands-free device.
A survey conducted last year by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) examined the “attitudes and behaviors” related to distracted driving of 6,000 respondents located in all fifty states and D.C. Nearly eighty percent of respondent admitted to receiving phone calls while driving, and just over forty percent make calls while driving. Ten percent said they receive and read text messages, and six percent said they send them while driving. Respondents cited very few situations where they absolutely would not talk on the phone or send or read text messages. The most common such situation was bad weather, with over half saying that would keep them from using their phones. Traffic jams and fast-moving traffic were also a concern, but few people said they would curb their cell phone use upon seeing a police officer, driving through a school zone, or driving with a child. Over half of the respondents did not believe that talking on the phone affected their driving in any way, and one-quarter said the same about texting.
The Washington, DC automobile accident injury lawyers at Lebowitz & Mzhen help people injured in car accidents to recover their just compensation. For a free and confidential consultation, contact us today online or at (800) 654-1949.
Tison, J., Chaudhary, N., & Cosgrove, L. (2011, December). National phone survey on distracted driving attitudes and behaviors. (PDF) (Report No. DOT HS 811 555). Washington, DC: National Highway Traffic Safety Administration
More Blog Posts:
National Transportation Safety Board Urges Cities and States to Ban All Cell Phone Use by Drivers, Washington DC Injury Lawyer Blog, December 21, 2011
Possible New FMCSA Hours-of-Service Regulations on Commercial Truck Drivers Create Controversy, Washington DC Injury Lawyer Blog, September 29, 2011
NTSB Urges Ban on Cell Phones for Truck Drivers, Washington DC Injury Lawyer Blog, September 23, 2011