Cagle Law Firm
Attorney Zane Cagle

Posted on April 2nd, 2019,
by Zane Cagle

National Distracted Driving Awareness Month

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Posted on April 2nd, 2019 by Zane Cagle

Is a Month Really Enough to Spend on Distracted Driving?

Distracted driving and inattentive driving are such a big problem, we probably need more than a month of awareness.  Distracted driving and inattentiveness are the most frequent causes of motor vehicle crashes. When you work with those injured in motor vehicle crashes every day, the consequences are a daily reminder of how many drivers fail to pay attention the entire time they are driving. It only takes a few seconds of distracted driving to seriously injure or kill fellow motorists or yourself. According to the Federal Communications Commission, an estimated 660,000 Americans use their phones while driving and approximately 9 lives are lost every day involving distracted driving. NINE people die a day!  So, maybe we need more reminders to avoid distracted driving.

Distracted driving is usually referred to the use of a smartphone or electronic device that requires you to look at the screen while driving ie: responding to emails, texts or responding to social media. Distracting driving and inattentiveness produce the same results. Observing attentive driving in the below areas is crucial in avoiding motor vehicle crashes.

Use Your Smartphone Smartly- Avoid Distraction

Even though smartphones have been around for quite awhile, so many of us are still not using them smartly!  It is more than tempting to multi-task and return texts or emails or look at your phone while driving.  But it is DANGEROUS!!   If you are weak and suffer temptation easily like I do, put your phone out of reach.  You can put the “Do Not Disturb While Driving” option on your phone so that while you are driving, notifications are sent to callers and text senders to that they know you are not blowing off their call. Instead, when I receive those messages from individuals, I am relieved that they chose to be safe instead of texting or returning my emails at that time.

According to the NHTSA, sending and receiving texts takes a minimum of five seconds and in that five seconds, you can travel the length of a football field if you are traveling on the interstate. Many terrible things can happen at a minimum of 55 mph on an interstate in the course of a 100 yard football field!  As well, texting and driving is against the law in many states. Even if it is not against the law in your state (such as Missouri), most city ordinances have banned operating your vehicle while texting and they will ticket you.  Drivers operating their smartphones or iPads typically swerve and meander around the road. Officers will pull you over for that kind of thing as you may appear that you are under the influence.

Flashing Lights- Emergency Assistance Lights

A huge problem that results in interstate crashes is when drivers fail to see flashing lights of disabled cars or law enforcement on the shoulder of the interstates.  Drivers often fail to see large, flashing lights because they are distracted or inattentive. Flashing lights on the interstate are kind of a big deal. Numerous vehicles and people are hit weekly on the shoulders of interstate because drivers never see them.  Let that set it—some drivers never see another vehicle that they pass going 70 mph on the shoulder!  Law enforcement including state troopers are hit, injured and killed while trying to assist stranded motorist every year.   When drivers are not paying attention, it has catastrophic consequences to those who have no choice but to be on the shoulder of an interstate.  As well, highway construction workers are injured and killed every year. These crashes are avoidable when drivers are driving the appropriate speed and attentive.

In Illinois alone, there were 15 State Police troopers or vehicles hit while the officers were stopped along a road with their lights flashing. This has occurred in the first three months of 2019.

If you are driving distracted, you may miss the semi-truck that is parked on the side of the road and rear-end it. Rear-ending a semi-truck in a passenger vehicle at 60-80 mph is almost always fatal. The height of a passenger car front window is usually just underneath the height of the trailer.

Buckle Up

While most Americans do use their seat belts, we still have too many Missourians that fail to buckle up. Using your seat belt will not guarantee that you will not be injured, however, seat belts do keep you in the vehicle during a crash. When you are involved in a motor vehicle crash, staying in the vehicle is critical. When individuals are ejected from the vehicle, their chances of survival decrease greatly.  Seat belts save over 14,000 lives in the U.S. in 2016 according to the NHTSA, yet 10% of drivers still fail to buckle up.

Use the Left Lane for Passing

This is a more common inconsideration on the interstates.  Use the right lane for driving and the left lane for passing. One, it seriously helps other drivers anticipate your moves thus increasing safety. Two, when drivers camp out in the left lane, it builds frustration for other drivers. Other drivers don’t know if you are attempting to pass and are very confused when you are backing of traffic.  According to Safety.com, staying in the left lane increases the likelihood that other drivers may engage in dangerous passing in an attempt to get around you. It is a safety hazard to cause traffic to build up behind you and is inattentive.

Again, if you see a stranded vehicle on the shoulder, move to the left lane. Rarely are disabled vehicles on the left side of the interstate. So, as a rule, when you see flashing lights, move to the left lane and give them some room. If you’ve ever been on the side of the interstate, you know it is a scary experience. I’ve been at more than one accident reconstruction scene and I’m always amazed at how fast the traffic whizzes by and how many times it is obvious that the drivers going by never even saw the flashing lights!

Don’t Follow to Closely or Tailgate

So traffic gets frustrating and when you are inpatient, you are tempted to rush someone. However, failing to keep a safe following distance causes rear-end collisions. Rear-end collisions on the interstates are far worse than a rear-ender in a neighborhood street, but both are commonly caused due to distracted driving or inattentiveness.   When a vehicle strikes another on the interstate from the rear-end, it usually results in both vehicles losing control and hitting medians and wall barriers; or worse, crossing a median striking another vehicle head-on.

People tend to think of the phrase “tail gaiting” as aggressive driving as a retribution for another’s driving slight. However, many drivers follow to closely simply for the fact that they are inpatient and distracted.  If a driver isn’t paying close attention and traffic backs up, they unintentionally follow too closely. The consequences are the same.

Tractor Trailers Demand Respect

Simply because of their size, all drivers must respect them. However, as a fellow driver and concern for personal safety, you have to consider the challenges of driving large trucks.  A good rule of thumb is, if you are behind a truck and not able to see the driver, they probably cannot see your car either. The biggest mistake a passenger vehicle driver can make is attempting to weave in and out of trucks especially on the interstate.  Let truck drivers drive defensively, but don’t make it extra challenging!  When a passenger vehicle is in a crash with a tractor-trailer, the outcome is almost always much, much worse for the passenger vehicle.

Know the Steps Following a Motor Vehicle Crash

It is important to know what you will do if you are in a motor vehicle crash. It never ceases to amaze me at how many people have a fire escape plan in their office and home, but have no idea what their first steps should be in case they are in a car collision. Statistically, your odds of being in a car crash are overwhelming compared to a house fire. Yet, knowing the first steps can make a huge difference in the multiple outcomes, from medical treatment to compensation.

  • Call 911 immediately. Even if you think you are not seriously injured, you do not want to gamble with the minute or two of someone else’s life. Plus, in traffic, you need law enforcement there to assist in helping other vehicles from hitting you again. Always call the police!
  • Seek medical treatment immediately.  If the ambulance personnel recommend that you go to the ER, then go!  In most situations where I talk with injured people who declined the ambulance at the scene, they most often regret it.  Put your health and well-being first!
  • Call an attorney as soon as possible. Do not talk to insurance companies before you consult with an attorney. We want you armed with the right information and know your rights before talking with an insurance company.  If the insurance company is contacting you and asking you questions while you are in the hospital, you should be concerned.  Do not talk with any adjusters while you are on pain medication as it impacts your ability to recall properly.

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