In April and May of 2012, trial attorneys from across the country conducted presentations at high schools to raise awareness of distracted driving dangers. They wanted young people to understand why making safe driving decisions is so important. These presentations were created by an organization called End Distracted Driving, located at EndDD.org. In collaboration with public safety marketing communications professionals, 60forSafety.org and Nodd.org, these messages were developed in a manner relatable to teens of today.
Today’s drivers are often distracted by a multitude of media, messages and technologies, in addition to historic distractions that drivers before the advent of smartphones and internet encountered. When there were no cell phones, navigation systems or satellite radio networks to peruse, driving was less of a distracted experience. Because we drive so much of each day, we often forget that we are at the helm of a 4,000 pound deadly weapon.
According to Distraction.gov, the official federal government website about distracted driving, there are several primary and frequent distracted driving activities. These include:
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Combined with distracted driving, dealing with commercial vehicles like tractor-trailers with weights up to 80,000 pounds create potential for catastrophe on the roadway. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMSCA) took potential for disaster-quality accidents into consideration in 2010. It was then that the FMSCA issued a ban on texting while driving in commercial vehicles. This was supplemented through a ban on handheld cellular devices by these drivers while behind the wheel. That regulation became effective on January 3, 2012.
Thirty-three American states have banned texting while driving and 10 states prohibit any use of handheld cellular phones when behind the wheel.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has reported:
Almost 5,500 people died in distracted driver accidents in 2009. A half million people were injured in accidents involving distracted driving. These fatalities are 16 percent of the total traffic-related deaths of that year, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). Employing refined statistical methodology, the NHTSA released new data in 2011 that indicated that an additional 3092 fatalities occurred from distracted driving accidents in 2010. This statistical refinement focused on cell phone and electronic device usage while behind the wheel.
According to the National Occupant Protection Use Survey (NOPUS), at any single moment during regular daylight hours in our country, there are about 660,000 Americans using their cell phones or other electronic devices while driving. This alarming number has remained unchanged since 2010, despite intense marketing efforts by a multitude of organizations and even car accident lawyers, seeking to reduce distracted driving.
Drivers aged 16 to 34 are at the highest risk for distracted time behind the wheel of a moving car. While cell phones and smartphones are highly convenient and designed for use while traveling, people have become so desensitized to risk that they now drive while sending social media messages, ordering pizza, mapping routes and answering emails.
Inexperienced drivers between ages 16 and 21 are at great risk for distracted driving, just as they are at higher risk for being a passenger to a distracted driver. Auto accidents are now the top cause of fatality among teens. Most teen crashes are caused by distracted driving.
If you are guilty of texting or using your smartphone behind the wheel, think about that for a moment. Is it ever really worth making that call, reading an email or typing a text without pulling over for safety? Such activities can certainly wait until you are safely parked or out of your vehicle. One text, email or call can feel urgent enough to be the end of the world if you miss it. But for the person you may injure or kill when engaging in distracted driving, it could be the end of their life.
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