Driving Blind: Distracted Drivers, Underreported Crash Data
You’re sitting at a stop light when you notice that the driver of the car next to you is wearing a blindfold. Before you can react, the light turns green. To your absolute horror, the unseeing blockhead takes off like a bat out of hell. For a heart pounding 4.6 seconds, he drives the length of a football field at 55 mph, all while driving blind.
Against all odds, he manages to stay in his own lane and no one is injured. As his vehicle disappears from view, you breathe a sigh of relief and wonder why he’d take such an insane risk, not just with his own life, but with the lives of every other person traveling on the road, as well.
If the above scenario sounds like something out of an ill conceived reality show, think again. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports that sending or receiving a text while driving takes the driver’s eyes from the road for an average of 4.6 seconds. This means that every time a driver checks email or sends a quick “be home soon” text, that driver is effectively driving blind, and the above example comes into sickeningly familiar focus.
Distracted driving and driving while texting is a dangerous reality our Maine personal injury attorneys have seen in far too many personal injury cases. Texting in cars and trucks causes over 3,000 deaths and 330,000 injuries per year, according to a Harvard Center for Risk Analysis study.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), driving a vehicle while texting is six times more dangerous than driving while intoxicated. While public safety campaigns combined with tougher laws have cut down on drunk driving deaths, deaths due to distracted driving are on the rise.
In our wired, Smartphone world, 91% of American adults own cell phones and nearly 50% admit to sending texts while driving. Ironically, 98% of these same adults surveyed fully admit that texting while driving is an extremely dangerous practice. But they do it anyway.
Lawmakers have made concerted efforts to put an end to distracted driving. Distracted driving, including driving while texting, is illegal in Maine and carries with it a minimum fine of $100 and 2 points on a driver’s record. But it has persisted despite these new laws designed to eliminate the practice, in part because people mistakenly believe “one text won’t hurt”.
But each and every text, email and distraction DOES hurt. Just ask the families of loved ones lost in tragic accidents that could have been avoided had the driver been paying attention to the road instead of their cell phones.
Our Maine personal injury attorneys understand that in reality, crash deaths caused by distracted drivers are much higher than what the currently available statistics show. The National Safety Council concluded that “crash deaths in cases where drivers were on the phone are seriously underreported…The underreporting makes the problem of distracted driving appear less significant than it actually is, and impedes efforts to win passage of tougher laws.” One database showed that in more than 32,000 traffic deaths overall in 2011, only 385 were listed as involving phones.
Clearly, distracted driving and driving while texting is a cold, hard reality that puts Maine drivers at tremendous risk for personal injury and traumatic accidents.
If you are involved in an automobile accident that you suspect was caused by a distracted driver, or a driver who was texting, please call the Maine personal injury attorneys at Hardy, Wolf and Downing. A thorough investigation into the particulars of an automobile accident may reveal that a driver was texting or otherwise distracted, even if the police reports indicate otherwise. Underreported cases of distracted driving should not let those responsible for hurting others off the hook.