Do you think distracted driving is a problem? If you’re like most people the answer is yes… as long as you’re talking about someone else.
Recent studies have shown that while most of us think distracted driving is dangerous, most of us are also guilty of succumbing to numerous distractions behind the wheel. Cell phone usage is an obvious culprit but so is shaving, applying makeup, eating, changing clothes, wrangling a pet or having conversations, even hands-free. Over 80% of drivers admit to distracted, multitasking behaviors behind the wheel.
Hundreds of Thousands of Accidents…Every Year
Unfortunately, all this distraction translates into hundreds of thousands of accidents every year, including fatal crashes. In 2018, more than 2800 people in the United States died in crashes caused by distracted drivers. In 2019, the number increased to 3100. According to the National Safety Council, statistics for 2020 are likely to be higher. That’s because even though traffic decreased by 13% due to the pandemic, traffic fatalities increased by 24% over the previous year, to more than 42,000 fatalities. Some of these crashes were undoubtedly caused by distraction, others by speeding or driving under the influence. We may never know for sure. People who cause crashes through distraction tend not to admit it, if they are still able to do so.
Texting While Driving: Extremely Dangerous
This tragic carnage is unnecessary. When you drive, remember that distractions can be visual, manual, or cognitive. Visual and manual distractions are pretty obvious, like picking up a coffee cup or glancing at the radio dial. We tend to recognize these distractions when they are happening and disengage from them quickly. Cognitive distractions as less obvious and therefore more dangerous. Talking on a cell phone or worse, texting, is a risky trifecta: a manual, visual, and cognitive distraction in one. Never text and drive. Put your cell phone in the glove box if it is too distracting. Or, if you have a passenger, let them be your designated texter. If you really need to check a text, pull over to a safe location and check it. Texting while driving is not only dangerous, it’s illegal in Colorado and almost every other state.
Connect to Disconnect
On April 8, as part of Distracted Driving Awareness Month, law enforcement agencies nationwide will be participating in a four hour distracted driving awareness and enforcement initiative called Connect to Disconnect. The goal of this program is to increase nationwide commitment to enforcing anti-texting laws in an equitable way and reduce crashes caused by distracted drivers. From April 8 through April 12, you will likely notice an increased presence of law enforcement on the roadways as part of a nationwide paid media campaign called U Drive. U Text. U Pay. The point of the campaign is to remind drivers of the risks and legal consequences of texting while driving.
It’s Just Not Worth It
Don’t wait for law enforcement remind you of the legal risks. Take it from us instead: if you cause an accident due to distracted driving, you are likely be found guilty of careless driving and negligence, at least. In Colorado, at-fault drivers are liable for the damages they cause. So until self-driving cars come to save us from ourselves, keep your eyes on the road!
Article by Molly Fuscher, Paralegal