Our Illinois injury lawyers have often discussed the dangers of distracted driving – and even distracted truckdriving. By now, everyone is or should be aware that texting, and even the use of cellphones, while driving is an incredibly dangerous practice. Individual states, as well as the federal government, are taking action to defend innocent motorists and pedestrians from the negligent actions of distracted drivers. Some might think that, with mounting evidence of the dangers of texting or dialing while driving, and the also mounting death and injury toll, no one would possibly advocate for distracted driving practices, instead of against them.
Those who think that are, unfortunately, mistaken.
It has now come to light that several different groups within the wireless communications industry are actively lobbying to prevent bans on texting while driving and cellphone use while driving from reaching the books. Why? Well, consider their incentives. The more people talk and text, the more cell phones, PDAs and smart phones purchased, the money they make. When that talking and texting goes on in cars, they still make more money.
And when that texting and talking leads to accidents, injury, and death, the manufacturers and distributors of these devices face no consequences. Even when a lawsuit is brought in texting-while-driving car accidents, it is typically brought against the negligent driver (and potentially the employer – if the negligent driver was using the vehicle for work-related purposes), not the cellphone company who enabled his negligent behavior. While this type of cold calculation is unsurprising, our Chicago personal injury attorneys are concerned.
How are these industry lobbyists going about their campaign to prevent regulation? Several different ways. First, an industry group known as the Seward Square Group is attempting to turn the push against distracted driving away from government intervention. Instead, the group is pushing “driver education” as the correct response to distracted driving, and actively seeking to prevent regulations. Yet driver education has still, after all these years, failed to curb driving while intoxicated or even driving without fastening seatbelts.
Taking another tack, industry groups such as the Consumer Electronics Association are aiming to weaken legislation on distracted driving, rather than prevent such legislation or regulation. These groups are focused on preventing laws that specifically target texting or cellphone use, and instead directing lawmakers towards laws and regulations that apply broadly to many different forms of distracted driving, without singling out handheld electronics.
This push is obviously unacceptable. We simply cannot afford to water down our society’s response to the ever-growing dangers of distracted driving – not when the National Safety Council has recently estimated that cellphone use causes around twenty-eight percent of U.S. automobile accidents every year. Likewise, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s figures show that, in 2008 alone, various types of distracted driving caused 5,870 fatalities and 515,000 non-fatal injuries. As texting has increased dramatically in the past few years, you can be sure that those numbers have only grown.
Thank goodness for federal Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood, a voice of reason on this issue. Secretary LaHood, who hails from our own great state of Illinois, is an outspoken proponent of bans on texting and cellphone use while driving. He has stated clearly his opinion on the issue, perhaps putting it best when announcing the new ban on texting while truckdriving (discussed in a recent Passen & Powell blog entry), “New technologies do not fit in with my high standard of zero distractions in vehicles, period.” Our Chicago truck accident attorneys echo these sentiments.
Yet not all those who have held the public safety in their hands stand with Secretary LaHood. Indeed, James E. Hall, head of the National Transportation Safety Board during the Clinton administration, is rumored to be lined up to head the industry coalition being forged by the Seward Square Group, touting public education above regulations which would actually ban distracted driving practices. While public education is of course a worthy goal, we are shocked to see Mr. Hall arguing that it should replace, not supplement, government actions to stop these dangerous practices.
Distracted driving is an ever increasing menace, quite worthy of the attentions of our nation’s lawmakers. Until bans put a stop to these dangerous practices, deaths and injuries will continue to occur. And when they do, our Chicago personal injury attorneys will be here to help the victims and the loved ones left behind to obtain justice.
For a free consultation with an experienced Chicago accident lawyer at Passen & Powell, call us at (312) 527-4500.