Tag Archives: texting while driving

One Text or Call Could Wreck It All

As part of a nationwide effort to raise awareness of the dangers of distracted driving and to help teens (and everyone) make safer driving decisions, I and other attorneys from MichieHamlett have been making safety presentations to schools in the area for the past several years.

Teens, who are inexperienced drivers and often passengers in cars being driven by other inexperienced drivers, are particularly at risk. Traffic crashes are now the leading cause of death for this age group. The vast majority of teen crashes are caused by some type of driver distractions. As a trial attorney with nearly 15 years of practice, I have personally seen many senseless traffic tragedies involving teens and how these tragedies devastate families and communities.  And, as you know, many adults are guilty of distracted driving, which further subjects our children, and us, to danger on the road.

Most people don’t know that distracted driving was the 2009 word of the year chosen by Webster’s Dictionary. Unfortunately, this is no passing fad. Distracted driving has become a trend with deadly, real consequences.

Why do so many people participate in this dangerous behavior? With more technology now than ever, driver distractions have risen to unprecedented levels. We live in a world where people expect instant, real-time information 24 hours a day and those desires don’t stop just because they get behind the wheel. Drivers simply do not realize – or choose to ignore – the danger they create when they take their eyes off the road, their hands off the wheel, and their focus off driving.

For those who think they can do two things at once, think about this: According to a study by Carnegie Mellon, driving while using a cell phone reduces the amount of brain activity associated with driving by 37 percent. Can you really afford to lose that much brainpower? It is effectively equivalent to driving under the influence of alcohol. Driving is an activity that requires your full attention and focus in order to keep yourself and others safe.

This is a national problem. No one is immune from the dangers of distracted driving. So please remember: One text or call could wreck it all.

Ten Tips on How to Stop Driving Distracted:

  • Turn off your phone when you get in your car.
  • When you’re in the car, put your phone where you can’t get to it, like the trunk or glove box.
  • Turn your phone notifications off. The less you hear your phone, the less tempted you’ll be to reach for it while you’re driving.
  • Designate a texter. Borrow the thumbs of a friend. Or lend yours to a friend. Passengers get the privilege of texting while in motion.
  • If you need to contact someone, pull over to a safe location and put your vehicle in park.
  • Change your voicemail greeting to indicate you are driving and will call back when safely parked.
  • If you are a passenger and the driver wants to use a cell phone, tell the driver you are uncomfortable with his or her cell phone use.
  • If you are talking to someone who is driving, ask the person to call you when he or she is parked in a safe location or tell the person you’ll call back later.
  • Concentrate on your driving and don’t use your drive time as your down time to catch up on other things.
  • Recognize activities that distract you and make an effort to eliminate them.

Distracted Driving: What Is It? Who Does It? Why Is It Bad?

It’s the first day of Spring, and we have high hopes that warmer weather is on the way after a long, cold winter in Virginia.  We have high hopes for something else which is occurring in Virginia at the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT).  VDOT is homing in on distracted drivers!  Hopefully, this will spark a safe-driving movement that aims at reducing (voluntary) distractions by drivers across the U.S.

What is a distracted driver?  If you have driven on any U.S. roads recently–whether state routes, country roads, or interstate highways, you know who these folks are, you’ve seen them, and possibly you are among their numbers–as we all are occasionally. But we are talking about habitually distracted drivers, who might better have their hands on the wheel and their eyes on the road.  But as we well know, this is not always the case, and distracted drivers are more frequently becoming the source of unfortunate and often tragic accidents.

What do distracted drivers do when they are supposed to be focused on driving their vehicles?  Distracted drivers may be doing any, some or all of the following while driving–and these are only a few of the activities we have observed:

  • Eating, drinking, and/or smoking (lighting or putting out cigarettes, cigars, or pipes) while driving can be very distracting–even momentarily; spilling hot food, cold or hot drinks, or cigarette ashes;
  • Talking on, listening to, or dialing cell phones;
  • Typing and sending text messages via cell phones;
  • Watching or listening to TV (now, I ask you…)
  • Listening to recorded/downloaded music on iPod-like devices, tape/CD-players or portable radios with earphones in-ears (the latter is actually illegal in many states);
  • Working on… or playing games… on laptop computers;
  • Changing clothing; putting on make-up;
  • Reading the newspaper, books or maps.

The aforementioned are only some of the things distracted drivers do. We are sure you can add other erstwhile activities you have seen people doing when they should be focused on driving, to the list, as distracted driving has become so prevalent, so commonly occurring.  The issue really impressed me while driving on a state route near my home; I noticed an SUV approaching in the rear view mirror at a rather high rate of speed. The SUV came close enough that I noted a neighbors’ young daughter driving and excitedly talking on her cell phone (which was held by her neck) as she gestured with her hands. My sole thought was: What is holding the steering wheel? (And, yes, I called her mom–not to tattle, but simply to ask in whose name the car was insured…)

Meanwhile, our concern is not just for the distracted drivers or for the jeopardy in which they place other drivers–but for the young children and infants who are often passengers in their cars–who can become accident victims very quickly. How often have we seen parents or caregivers with children in booster seats drive down the road in a vehicle while talking or texting on a cell phone?  If this isn’t illegal in all states, it needs to be.  So ChildSafetyBlog.org’s hat is off to VDOT for their spearheading the charge against this distracted driver syndrome!  Go for it, with our blessing and whole-hearted support.  It only makes sense for people to pull over and stop to make or take a call, or text on a cell phone. The other stuff?  Hopefully, you can wait until you get home to see the next episode of “Desperate Housewives”!