Drivers know that tapping out a text message or shipping off an e-mail behind the wheel is dangerous.
And yet, at any given moment of the day, our Asheville car accident lawyers understand that approximately 660,000 drivers are using an electronic device or cell phone – putting hundreds of thousands more at risk of serious injury or death.
That information was released by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, which is highlighting the fact that during April, which is Distracted Driving Awareness Month nationwide, we must take responsibility for our own actions behind the wheel. From there, these good habits need to be applied to our driving repertoire for the rest of the year. No longer can we assume that the rules should only apply to other drivers.
The reality is, no matter how experienced you are behind the wheel, driving while distracted is on par with driving drunk, and no one can do it safely.
The NHTSA’s report, entitled the SAFETY 1N NUM3ERS was culled from the 2012 Distracted Driving Attitudes and Behaviors Survey, as well as the 2011 National Occupant Protection Use Survey on Driver Electronic Use, as well as the 2011 Distraction Fatality Analysis Reporting System.
That 660,000 figure is one that has held consistent over the last three years. It’s troubling that we have yet in that time frame to have made significant progress in reducing the number.
When we look at the human cost, the NHTSA reports that more than 3,300 died in 2011 in crashes attributed to distracted driving. Another nearly 390,000 were seriously hurt.
Many cities and states throughout the country have adopted bans on cell phone use or texting while driving. In North Carolina, Chapel Hill adopted an all-encompassing cell phone ban.
The state is also one of 39 (as well as D.C., Puerto Rico and Guam) that has banned texting, e-mail and Internet use for all drivers. Those under the age of 18 are barred from using their phones behind the wheel, unless calling one of their parents. Additionally, school bus drivers are forbidden from using cell phones while driving.
In the NHTSA’s survey, researchers sought responses from some 6,000 drivers over the age of 16. About half of those said they answered incoming calls while driving, and another 25 percent said they are willing to place a phone call on all or at least some of their trips.
To put these numbers into a little bit of perspective, consider that there are approximately 210 million licensed drivers in this country. So we’re talking about more than 100 million answering a phone call behind the wheel and 50 million making a call.
As a nation, we have got to start taking the risks more seriously.
When you get behind the wheel, simply turn off your phone, or at least place it out of reach before you even put the key in the ignition. Especially if you have pre-teens or teenagers, you want to set a good example.
If you’re a passenger and your driver starts to text or talk on the phone, don’t stay silent – speak up. It’s your life too.
And always buckle up. It may not prevent an accident, but it can certainly improve your chances of survival.
If you or a loved one is involved in an accident, contact Grimes Teich Anderson LLP. Call 1.800.533.6845.