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What is Distracted Driving?

photo_18058_20100529.jpgDistracted driving includes activities such as eating, applying make-up, reaching into the backseat, using in-vehicle navigation systems and cell phone use. Yet, while there are many forms of distracted driving, all of which increase the likelihood of car crashes, cell phone use by drivers is the most deadly threat due to the fact that more drivers are engaging in cell phone use, and for longer periods of time. In fact, according to a 2012 survey conducted by the AAA Foundation For Traffic Safety, more than two in three drivers report talking on their cell phone while driving at least once in the past 30 days.

Cell Phone Conversations

The dangers of texting while driving receive the most attention in the media; however, using a cell phone to simply have a phone conversation, even with the use of hands-free technology, is also very dangerous. The National Safety Council estimates that 24% of all motor vehicle crashes involve cell phone use.

Additionally, drivers talking on handheld or hands-free cell phones are four times as likely to crash. Notably, a controlled driver simulator study conducted by the University of Utah found that drivers using cell phones had slower reaction times than drivers with a .08 blood alcohol content, the legal intoxication limit.

Traditional Texting vs. Voice-to-Text

In addition to having cell phone conversations while driving, approximately thirty-five percent of drivers admitted to reading a text or email while driving and twenty-six percent admitted to typing a text or email. What many people do not realize, however, is that voice-to-text may be just as distracting as traditional texting using your hands.

A study carried about the Texas Transportation Institute at Texas A&M University reveals that sending text messages via voice while driving can be just as dangerous as texting using your hands. Specifically, the study found that not only did it take drivers using voice-activated texting longer to send a message than traditional texting, but also that while texting (whether via voice or with fingers), a driver’s eye contact with the road decreased and response times were significantly delayed. Notably, and potentially the most concerning, is that drivers using speech-to-text devices felt like they were safer, despite the fact that the study revealed just the opposite: both types of texting are dangerous.

Steps Being Taken to Reduce Distracted Driving

Many steps have been taken to reduce the incidence of distracted driving, particularly, distracted driving associated with mobile devices.

For example, many states, including Texas, have enacted laws limiting the use of cell phones for some, or all individuals, while driving. According to the Texas Department of Transportation, in 2012, there were 90,378 traffic crashes in Texas that involved distracted driving. These crashes resulted in 18,468 serious injuries and 453 deaths. In fact, nearly one in four crashes in Texas involve driver distraction.


Moreover, as part of April’s National Distracted Driving Awareness Month, the Texas Department of Transportation, continued its Talk. Text. Crash campaign to raise awareness of the dangers associated with distracted driving and to encourage Texans to put down their cell phones while driving to reduce the high numbers of accidents caused by distracted drivers.

Finally, a novel theory of liability has been brought before a New Jersey appeals court this month, which may cause individuals to think twice before texting or calling someone they know who is driving. During oral arguments of a case brought before the New Jersey appeal court, an attorney representing two motorcycle riders who each lost a leg in a car crash caused by a distracted driver reading a text presented this novel theory before the court: the court should impose a duty of care on those who knew the recipient is behind the wheel and likely to be reading a text while driving. The court’s decision in this case may have far-reaching impacts on whether texting someone who you know is behind the wheel will subject you to civil liability.

Even though there is no official statewide texting while driving ban, there are certain handheld device driving restrictions in place in many cities throughout Texas, and you may still have a claim against a distracted driver
In the event that you or someone you know were recently in a car accident caused by a distracted driver, call a San Antonio personal injury lawyer at Carabin & Shaw.

Sources:

Distracted Driving Awareness Month, National Safety Council
For Drivers, Voice-to-Text Is Also Dangerous, by Tracy Staedter, Mashable
Talk. Text. Crash. – Distracted Driving Campaign, Texas Department of Transportation
Can remote texter be liable if driver is distracted by message? Appeals court mulls novel theory, by Martha Neil, ABA Journal