Distracted driving involving handheld devices is becoming an increasing hazard on the road. Legislators across the country are rushing to address the growing public hazard. The National Transportation Safety Board notes that it has already become common protocol when investigating a car accident injury to request the cell phone records of all drivers involved. These records include details about calls, texts and other activity on a mobile device. Since this information is already highly suspected at the beginning of any auto accident investigation and it is most certainly a preventable cause, the National Transportation Safety Board recommends more states should impose laws that ban texting while driving.
Distracted Driving Causes Car Accidents, Boat Accidents, and Plane Accidents
But it’s not just car and truck drivers that are the problem. A train engineer texting back in 2008 was the cause of a train accident that cost the lives of 25 people in California. A tugboat pilot killed two tourists when he got distracted on his cell phone and laptop and let the tugboat run right into a tourist boat. Similarly, though luckily not fatal, a Northwest Airlines flight in 2009 actually missed its landing strip by more than a hundred miles because not one but both pilots were distracted on their laptops.
While these high profile cases received a great deal of attention, there are still dozens more cases across the country of car accident injuries caused by at least one distracted driver using mobile phones, tablets, laptops, or other handheld devices.
State Laws Against Texting and Driving
The National Transportation Safety Board has also addressed the existing bans on texting and driving and using cell phones while driving. Just because many states have these texting while driving bans on the books doesn’t mean they are actively enforced. In fact, half of drivers in their early 20s admit to texting while driving or checking email while driving. In 2009, there were 50% more drivers texting than in 2008. It is suspected that nearly one in every one hundred drivers can be assumed to be texting and driving or otherwise distracted by their phone.
Tips to Avoid Distracted Driving
Here are 10 tips from Governor’s Highway Safety Association for managing some of the most common distractions that lead to car accident injuries.
- Turn it off. Turn your phone off or switch to silent mode before you get in the car.
- Spread the word. Set up a special message to tell callers that you are driving and you’ll get back to them as soon as possible, or sign up for a service that offers this.
- Pull over. If you need to make a call, pull over to a safe area first.
- Use your passengers. Ask a passenger to make the call for you.
- X the Text. Don’t ever text and drive, surf the web or read your email while driving. It is dangerous and against the law in most states.
- Know the law. Familiarize yourself with state and local laws before you get in the car. Some states and localities prohibit the use of handheld cell phones. GHSA offers a handy chart of state texting and driving laws.
- Prepare. Review maps and directions before you start to drive. If you need help when you are on the road, ask a passenger to help or pull over to a safe location to review the map/directions again.
- Secure your pets. Pets can be a big distraction in the car. Always secure your pets properly before you start to drive.
- Keep the kids safe. Pull over to a safe location to address situations with your children in the car.
- Focus on the task at hand. Refrain from smoking, eating, drinking, reading and any other activity that takes your mind and eyes off the road.