Our Chicago wrongful death attorneys have previously discussed some of the recent incidents in Illinois highlighting the dangers of distracted driving. Although some still take distracted driving lightly, experts estimate that engaging in distracted driving is roughly comparable to driving after drinking four alcoholic beverages. Distracted driving, while dangerous at all times, is particularly dangerous at high speeds. At about 55 miles per hour, a driver who takes his eyes off the road for 5 seconds essentially drives the length of an entire football field with his eyes closed.
Some estimates put the percentage of automobile accidents in the United States caused by distracted driving as high as 80%. Indeed, a distracted driver is 23 times as likely to be in an accident. When drivers take their eyes off the road for as little as 2 seconds, crash risk doubles. As many as 28% of accidents in the United States are caused by drivers distracted by cellphones and texting. And while much of the media attention lately has focused on texting, the very real danger of driving while using a handheld cellphone should not be ignored. Drivers using a handheld cellphone have a risk of causing an accident four times greater than those who refrain, and comparable to a drunk driver. Yet studies show that 81% of Americans use a handheld cellphone while driving.
Additionally, many Americans mistakenly believe that driving while on a hands-free cellphone is no different than talking to a passenger in the car. Yet science shows that this is false: our brains process information differently depending upon whether we are talking to a live person or using a cellphone, and are unable to multitask as effectively while doing the later. If you doubt this, ask yourself if, while having open-heart surgery, you would be comfortable with your surgeon chatting on a hands-free cellphone. Your intuition should give you all the answer you need.
Distracted driving is a particular problem among teens and young drivers. Our Chicago personal injury lawyers urge parents to carefully discuss distracted driving and its consequences with young drivers, and monitor their driving habits closely. Drivers under 20, especially inexperienced drivers, have the highest rate of fatal crashes caused by distracted driving. Drivers under 21, and those with less than 6 months experience, engage in a great number of bad driving practices. As well as engaging in distracted driving, they are more likely to drive to quickly and drive too close to the car in front of them.
Legislation recently introduced in the Senate Commerce Committee could help to reverse this disturbing trend. The legislation, called the Distracted Driving Prevention Act, aims to reduce distracted driving by encouraging state action. If passed, the Act will provide grants to states who enact state legislation banning texting and the use of handheld cellphones, and the use of any cellphones by those under 18. The bill’s other provisions are aimed at public education on the dangers of distracted driving, and research into safer mobile communications. The legislation is supported by the National Safety Council. Our Chicago car accident attorneys join their voice with that of the NSC and urge the Senate to pass this legislation as soon as possible.
Allstate Insurance Company has also launched a campaign against distracted driving – but in Canada. It calls the campaign “Action against Distraction.” The campaign is focused on teenagers, and works with schools to reach them. It tries to make students aware of the many simple distractions, from using a GPS, to talking on a cellphone, to adjusting the radio, to applying makeup, to simply talking to friends, which can lead to a fatal auto accident. The campaign also includes a video of teens sharing the worst examples of distracted driving they have witnessed, and an online pledge against distracted driving that teens and their parents can sign. Teens who sign the pledge are entered to win an IPAD – and they are entered again if they share the pledge with friends.
Likewise, a British public service announcement available on Youtube targets teenage drivers with a gruesome, realistic staging of a texting teen driver who crashes her car and kills two of her friends. The U.S. Department of Transportation has also launched a website, www.distraction.gov, aimed at educating the public about the dangers of distracted driving.
We profoundly hope that these combined efforts will influence the public to drive safely and undistracted. In the meantime, distracted drivers will continue to injure and kill themselves and others, to the tune of 1.6 million accidents in the United States each year. Those injured by distracted driving should take legal action against those who injured them. Perhaps the threat of civil liability, if nothing else, will convince American drivers to act responsibly.
For a free consultation with an experienced Chicago personal injury lawyer at Passen & Powell, call us at (312) 527-4500.