April is National Distracted Driving Awareness Month, and, at the law offices of Chalik & Chalik, we take this month seriously. We have seen the horrors of distracted driving accidents in Fort Lauderdale, and we want all Florida citizens to be as safe on the road as possible. As cars have grown faster and more powerful over the years, the dangers of preoccupied motorists have become increasingly deadlier on America’s roads, especially with the advent of mobile technology.
Increasing Danger on America’s Roads
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), there were 37,461 traffic-related deaths in the United States in 2016. Of those deaths, a staggering 3,500 – or nearly one in 10 – were a result of distracted driving. A research study conducted by the University of Nebraska Medical Center reports that from 2005 to 2010, pedestrian deaths attributed to distracted driving increased from 344 to 500, an approximate 50% rise; cyclist deaths also increased almost 30% in the same time period.
A 2014 NHTSA study reported that auto accidents cost the United States $871 billion a year – that’s $900 for every American citizen, with $594 billion of those costs attributed to loss of human life or personal injury resulting from the accident.
Defining Driver Distraction
Distracted driving is far more prevalent than many realize. Most tend to think of distracted driving as texting or emailing while behind the wheel, but many other activities can take the driver’s eyes or mind off the road. Gazing up at the skyline or across a waterway, fiddling with the stereo, watching a flashy car passing by or a car accident on the shoulder, a pet jumping into the driver’s lap, or chatting with passengers in the back seat can all distract a driver. These activities may seem innocuous, but when a car is going 65-70 mph, distractions like these endanger everyone on the road.
The Dangers of Using Cellphones While Driving
According to the NHTSA, texting while operating a motor vehicle is one of the most dangerous and alarming behavioral risks a driver can engage in on the road. Sending or even reading a text can remove your gaze from the road for more than five seconds; this doesn’t seem like a long time, but at 55 mph, those five seconds are equal to driving the length of a football field, or an entire city block, with your eyes closed.
Over the past decade, state legislators have worked together in a bipartisan fashion to enact sensible legislation to help protect America’s motorists, cyclists, and pedestrians. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than nine pedestrians died and 1,000 suffer injuries each day because of distracted driving.
Take the Phone-Free Pledge
The National Safety Council, which tries to eliminate unnecessary deaths using education, advocacy, research, and leadership, offers a Phone-Free Pledge online that businesses, community groups, and individuals can take in hopes of encouraging more people everywhere to drive attentively.
Distracted Driving Laws: Nationwide
Legislature has passed laws prohibiting texting on cellular phones in 47 states; Arizona and Montana are the only two entirely without such legal guidelines; Missouri has a partial ban. The use of handheld phones by younger drivers (under the age of 18) is now illegal in 38 states. Only 15 states have enacted an outright ban of the use of handheld cell phones while driving.
Are Distracted Driving Laws Working?
A study conducted by the Center for Injury Research Policy at Nationwide Children’s Hospitals indicates that states with universal bans on the use of all handheld devices have shown a 55% decrease in the “likelihood” of teenage cell phone use while driving. Currently, only 15 states have comprehensive laws banning the use of all mobile devices while driving. If the Children’s Hospitals’ study holds true to a larger sample size, the most effective way to decrease accidents nationwide is to enact universal bans on all devices and all forms of handheld mobile communication when operating a motor vehicle.
Though April is a good month to remind all drivers to stay alert on the road, we should all take steps to avoid driving distractedly – no matter what month it is.