Texting while driving puts all of us at risk. How can we expect our children to be safe drivers if we do not lead by example? We must lead by example. Because of that, I’ve written several posts discussing distracted driving among both parents and professional drivers. You can read a few of those posts here:
Look at the drivers around you. Do you see many of them staring at their phones instead of the road? I do. I also talk daily with clients who suffered serious personal injuries in car crashes caused by these distracted drivers.
Distracted driving is a frequent topic for us. We have long-advocated an approach to the problem that involves safety laws, education and technology. All three approaches are needed. Safety laws help but they do not solve the problem by themselves. That’s our opinion.
A new study by a California company, Zendrive, supports our belief that safety laws alone cannot solve the problem of distracted driving. You can read about the recent Zendrive study at the website for the Claims Journal an insurance industry periodical. You can also read about the study in a recent Bloomberg article. Each separate article provides interesting insights into the study. According to reports, Zendrive monitored several million drivers. Before I discuss some of the actual results, the Claims Journal article notes Zendrive “is likely discounting the danger” since it only records phone use when the device is actually moving around inside a car. In other words, if your phone is mounted to the dash, your use may not have been recorded. What are a couple of the interesting facts reported by the Claims Journal and Bloomberg articles? Here are a couple:
Distracted driving is a huge problem on Alabama highways — much worse than reported. In a prior post, I discussed a study that analyzed distractions due solely to cell phones. That study, limited just to cell phone distraction, revealed distracted driving causes far more crashes than reported by government data. Of course, cell phones are not the only distraction causing crashes on our highways. Drivers face numerous other distractions. We discuss these distractions on our law firm website and in many of our blog posts.
How can we reduce distracted driving injuries? Outside the courtroom, our firm is committed to advocating for highway safety. Safety advocates have largely focused on three areas to combat distracted driving — education, law enforcement and technology. When it comes to technology, you would expect car manufacturers to lead the charge for safety. Do they? Not always. General Motors (GM) is actually introducing an App called Marketplace that creates more risks of distracted driving crashes. A number of safety advocates share my concern with GM’s actions.
What is GM doing? GM has created a touchscreen App that will be included in new car models and will allow drivers to shop while driving. Here is what USA Today reported about the new touchscreen App:
The holiday season can be very busy. For many of us, our work year is coming to a close. Our children may have many holiday-related programs at school. Add to that already busy schedule — shopping for Christmas gifts, holiday parties, travel for family gatherings. It equals a very busy time. We spend much of that time in our cars on the road.
With all the extra activity, do drivers face an increased risk of accidents and injuries? That’s the question highway researchers asked. Researchers from The University of Alabama Center for Advanced Public Safety examined the data. The University of Alabama study analyzed 10 years of Alabama car crash data during the days surrounding Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s.
After collecting and analyzing the data, computer science professor Dr. David Brown noted “the shopping days before Christmas are perilous.” That’s quite a statement. Although just my personal observation, I also think the days right before Christmas are the worst traffic days in Huntsville. Now that I have a teen driver in my house, I have discussed with him the expected holiday traffic around Huntsville.
Elderly driving is a sensitive topic. It is a very sensitive topic for many families dealing with elderly relatives. We all value our independence and freedom. Driving is a key part of living independently. Yet, the topic has been on my mind lately. I have been preparing two car accident cases for trial involving serious crashes caused by elderly drivers. In one, the elderly driver crashed into five separate cars on a highway in Huntsville. She should have stopped driving long before the car crash.
I understand the difficulty in talking to our elderly loved ones about their driving. How do you tell your parents or grandparents it may be time to consider driving alternatives (or giving up their keys completely)? I’ve had those conversations with several elderly relatives. Many of my elderly relatives live in and around Decatur, Alabama. One by one, we have had the conversations necessary to prevent them from hurting themselves or someone else on our roads.
How does aging affect safe driving? The aging process can affect safe driving in many ways. Here are a few:
Distracted driving is a major cause of needless highway injuries and deaths. Months ago, I wrote that parents must lead by example in order to reduce the rate of teenage distracted driving. My prior post is Distracted Driving: Parents Must Lead By Example. In that earlier post, I wrote:
Our public safety officials have worked hard to educate young drivers on this issue. However, education of our young drivers is much less effective if we don’t lead by example. It is difficult in a busy world to not be distracted while driving. Yet, we must work hard to practice safe habits that our children will see and absorb.
A new survey reveals parents may be a large part of the problem. According to the new survey, “parents are the most distracted drivers on our roads.” Ford Motor Company surveyed drivers in New Zealand and Australia. According to the results:
Is the ban on texting and driving in Alabama effective? In a recent post, I discussed two shortcomings with Alabama’s current distracted driving law.
- Our current law is limited in application. Our current law applies to portable devices removable from the car. And, it applies simply to texting or typing activities. As I discussed in my prior post, the use of electronic devices has expanded far beyond simple texting or typing activities. In our practice, we’ve seen accidents caused by drivers actually surfing the internet while driving. We even had one client hurt by a driver who was watching a movie on a portable device while operating a car. Our law should be written to encompass unreasonably dangerous distractions beyond the simple act of texting. I understand – we cannot anticipate every bad act. But, we can keep the law up to date with advances in how people use portable devices.
- Our current law contains minimal penalties. What is the first-time offender penalty for a texting and driving citation? It’s $25. The penalty for texting and driving in Alabama provides almost no deterrent to drivers.
Distracted drivers cause many deadly car accidents on Alabama highways. Despite efforts to educate the public (and especially young drivers), accident statistics continue to show a growing problem. The Property Casualty Insurers Association of America (PCI) reported:
a 14 percent increase in traffic fatalities over the past two years — the largest two year increase in more than 50 years.
In recent days, we again saw the deadly toll of distracted driving on our highways. A church choir in Texas was returning from its annual retreat when the unthinkable happened. A pickup truck suddenly veered from its lane and into the path of their bus. The two vehicles collided head-on. According to news reports, thirteen senior citizens from the same church died in the crash. One church member survived the crash itself but currently remains in critical condition from her injuries.
The photographs and video of the crash scene are difficult to view. The vehicles look like mangled pieces of steel destroyed by the impact. But, this was not an accident. It was avoidable. The pickup truck driver chose to disregard completely the safety of others and caused the deadly crash. What choice did this driver make? He chose to drive distracted for miles down the highway putting many lives in danger. He chose to put his attention on texting instead of the roadway.
Distracted driving leaves a path of destruction across the highways of Alabama and all other states. In Alabama, we recently saw a driver receive jail time for a deadly distracted driving crash. In Georgia, a commercial truck driver plowed into a car of nursing students causing another deadly crash.
In June, I wrote a post discussing distracted driving by commercial truck drivers. You can read the post here: Distracted Driving And Commercial Trucks — A Deadly Combination. That post discusses a terrible distracted driving case where a truck driver crashed into a group of nursing students.
The crash killed five nursing students and severely injured others. Afterwards, the trucking company quietly settled claims from the families of the nursing students killed. However, one of the severely injured nursing students and her lawyer prepared for trial.
In January, a jury awarded $15 Million to this surviving nursing student. The student suffers from a traumatic brain injury caused by the crash. I have two instant takeaways from the jury verdict.