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Cagle Law Firm
Attorney Zane Cagle

Posted on June 6th, 2014,
by Zane Cagle

Is Distracted Driving as Dangerous As Drunk Driving?

Posted on June 6th, 2014 by Zane Cagle

[cbc_playlist videos=”10371″]According to a recent article published in the International Business Times, Americans are almost as likely to be injured or killed in an auto accident by a driver who is texting or involved in other driving distractions as they are by a drunk driver.

According to the National Highway Transportation Association, distracted drivers were responsible for 17 percent of the economic cost of all traffic accidents in the U.S. in 2010, the latest year for available data.  That amount averages to $148 for each man, woman and child in the U.S. says the report.  “Including lost quality of life, these crashes were responsible for $129 billion or 15 percent of the overall societal harm caused by motor-vehicle crashes”, stated the NHTA report.

Drunk driving and speeding were more costly, weighing in at 18 percent of economic output and 21 percent respectively. In total, the cost for crashes result  in an economic burden for American at $871 billion in economic loss and societal harm.  This includes the $277 billion in economic costs- nearly $900 for each person living in the United Sates based on the calendar year of 2010 and $549 billion in harm from the loss of life and the pain and decreased quality of life due to injuries. Remember, that is the reported loss of quality of life. In fact, that number may be higher.

Twenty Percent

Almost 20 percent of those distracted drivers were using cell phones. “These estimates are almost certainly conservative because they are based only on identified distraction cases. Police records frequently fail to identify whether or not distraction was involved in the crash,” said the agency.

Some other Noteworthy “Scary” Statistics

  1. Failure to wear a seat belt represents a quite large opportunity for injury prevention.  In 2010 alone, more than 3,350 people were killed and 54,300 were seriously injured because they failed to use their seatbelts.
  2. Speed-related crashes are associated with 10,536 fatalities, 800,000 nonfatal injuries and damage to 3 million vehicles in property-damage-only crashes. This represents 32 percent of all fatalities; 20 percent of all nonfatal injuries and 16 percent of all property-damage-only crashes.
  3. Alcohol-related crashes resulted in 13,323 fatalities, 430,000 nonfatal injuries, and $59.4 billion in economic costs in 2010, accounting for 21 percent of all crash costs.
  4. Some 3.9 Million people were injured in 13.6 million motor vehicle accidents in 2010, including 32,000 fatalities. Twenty-four percent of these injures occurred in crashes that were not reported to police
  5. Present and future medical costs due to injuries occurring in 2000 were $34.0 billion representing 13 percent of the total costs. Medical costs accounted for 24 percent of costs from non-fatal injuries

Other scary statistics from the NHTA report can be found here in the article. However, the point is distracted driving is increasingly becoming a bigger problem. Technology advances in cell phones have made most of us even more dependent on being in-touch with our phone and literally “on” our phones constantly. I know, I am Constantly on my phone answering calls, texts and returning emails.  But, as an auto accident attorney, I see the consequences of distracted driving daily. Daily I talk to people whose lives will never be the same because someone was on their phone and crashed into them!

Talking on Your Phone While Driving, Illegal in Illinois

In Illinois, talking on your hand-held cell phone while driving is illegal as of January 1, 2014. As well, certain municipalities in Missouri have enacted the same restriction and instituted penalties.   Drivers that need/must use their cell phones must use Bluetooth, speaker, or other hands-free devices to avoid getting a ticket. You can do things like put your phone in the glove box while driving.  While hands-free use of your cell phone is legal, reducing the number of distractions while you drive is always preferred.  If you do not have hands-free devices, then pull over to a safe location and return the call or wait until you have reached your destination. Honestly, not many people will text in the event of an emergency but will call and leave a voicemail.  It is always a better idea to reduce the number of things you are trying to do Instead of drive when you are behind the wheel.

What Can Be Done About Distracted Driving

Legislatures and law makers are passing more legislation to reduce distracted driving. Ultimately, the only person you can enforce  more focused driving is yourself.  Make conscious efforts to remove distractions from your car such as not eating and drinking in your car. If you must use your phone, use hands-free technology.  Make your music playlist before you get in the car so you are not constantly scrolling through your music selection.  Reduce or remove as many driving distractions as possible. If you need directions, use hands-free mobile applications that will give you audible directions. Searching a map while driving is a huge distraction.  Use technology advances to make operating a car safer rather than more distracting! If each of us takes responsibility for our own driving actions, then as a group we can make the roadways safer.

Distracted driving is not just cell phone use but can be just regular inattentiveness as well.  Take frequent breaks if you are traveling long distances and trade out drivers if possible so that the driver remains vigilant and attentive.

If you have been injured in an auto accident?

Legally speaking, distracted driving is in general, harder to measure and often it is not viewed as “grossly negligent” as drunk driving.  When someone climbs behind the wheel after consuming alcohol, we generally view that as a conscious, irresponsible choice, but isn’t texting and driving a conscious choice? Considering the publicity of the dangers of distracted driving including public service commercials and safety announcements and research offering up all of the tragic statistical consequences of distracted driving, it makes it more difficult for any individual to claim “ignorance” of the dangers of distracted driving.

If you have been injured in an auto accident, then you must consider all of the factors involved leading up to the accident.  If you were hit by someone who was distracted due to their phone use, alcohol or general inattention, you may need an attorney in order to obtain the compensation that you need and deserve. At The Cagle Law Firm, we realize that “accidents do happen”, but almost every accident has a cause and generally it involves the action or lack of action of someone. The behavior that caused the accident is rarely intentional, but each of us have to take responsibility for the choices and decisions we make while behind the wheel.  Call (314) 276-1681 or locally (314) 276-1681 for your free consultation today.