The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) is seeking to broaden the ban on cell phone usage by drivers after a new study entitled “National Phone Survey on Distracted Driving Attitudes and Behaviors” just released reveals some fairly disturbing facts about driver behavior behind the wheel. The study reveals that despite state initiatives more drivers are talking on cell phones and texting while driving than ever before and that it has become a problem as serious as DUI.
Drivers face all kinds of distractions while behind the wheel. For most Americans, the car has become an extension of the home and it is not uncommon to see a driver engaging in dangerous behaviors while driving including eating/drinking, fiddling with the radio or navigation system, putting on makeup, talking to other passengers, tending to children in the back seat, shaving as well as talking on cell phones and text messaging. In Oregon, a bus driver was even videotaped by a passenger reading using a Kindle device while driving.
This new study reveals that drivers – especially younger ones – grossly underestimate the hazardous effects of cell phone usage on their driving. The study said 61% of drivers under the age of 24 feel that using a cell phone while driving had no impact whatsoever on their driving ability.
Younger drivers between the ages of 18-20 are also more likely to send text messages while driving with 44% of those had done so. Young drivers are in denial that cell phone usage while driving is dangerous.
The study posed the question, “How many seconds do you believe a driver can take his or her eyes off the road before driving becomes significantly more dangerous?” The study revealed that 46% believe that danger increases after 1 to 2 seconds, 19% chose 3 to 4 seconds and 8% select 5 to 10 seconds.
The fact of is that distracted driving does cause car crashes. The National Transportation Safety Administration (NTSA) estimated that in 2009 alone 5,500 people in the U.S. were killed and more than 450,000 suffered injuries in car accidents where distracted driving was a factor.
This year there have been several high profile cases in which people were killed in accidents where cell phone usage was a factor.
In California, Danae Marke Miller, 22, was charged with vehicular manslaughter after she hit and killed a bicyclist, Armine Britel, 40. It was revealed that Miller was texting when the bicycle accident occurred and she was also under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Her court date was schedule for December. She faces up to 10 years in prison.
In Washington State, a 22-year-old woman, Ashley R. Davis-Jones, was killed when her vehicle crossed the centerline and she was hit head-on by a semi-truck. An investigation revealed that Davis-Jones and been texting moments before the crash occurred.
There have been some pilot projects that found that when cell phone ban laws were strictly enforced along with public education campaigns about the dangers, texting while driving dropped by nearly 75%. In the future, campaigns against distracted driving may become as prevalent as those against DUI.
This post was provided by Herbert G. Farber, the founder of The Farber Law Group, a personal injury law firm located in Bellevue, Washington.