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Distracted Driving A leading Cause of Accidents and Injuries Nationally – Including San Francisco

With the popularity of advanced phone and GPS devices in recent years, lawmakers across the country have come to recognize the dangers posed by distracted driving. The statistics are compelling: according to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA), nearly 5,500 people were killed and an estimated 448,000 were injured on U.S. roadways in accidents involving distracted driving in 2009, the last year for which statistics are available. This means that distracted driving was responsible for nearly 16 percent of all traffic-related deaths in the U.S. in 2009. In my opinion, this is an epidemic, and our streets need to be made safer.

Despite these rather shocking recent statistics, many drivers remain ignorant of what sorts of activities constitute distracted driving and the effects of these activities on their driving, and also continue to engage in this extremely dangerous behavior.

What Is Distracted Driving?

Distracted driving is any activity that takes a driver’s attention from the act of driving, which in turn increases the chances of a crash. Distractions can be:

  • Visual: any activity – such as watching television, checking email on a hand-held phone or checking a GPS device – that requires a driver to take his eyes off the road
  • Manual: any activity – such as texting or dialing a telephone number – that requires a driver to remove one or both of his hands from the steering wheel
  • Cognitive: any activity – such as talking on a cellphone – that requires a driver to take his mind off the act of driving

The Singular Dangers of Texting While Driving

While no distracting activity is safe for drivers, texting while driving is particularly dangerous because it involves visual, manual, and cognitive distractions at the same time. According to a recent study by researchers at the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute (VTTI), when drivers text, they are 23 times more likely to cause a collision than when they are not texting.

The VTTI researchers found that drivers spent five or more seconds looking at their devices in the moments before a crash or near-crash – enough time to allow a car moving at highway speeds to travel a distance longer than a football field.

This is not to say, however, that choosing to talk rather than text while driving is a safe alternative. According to previous VTTI studies, drivers are three times more likely to crash or nearly crash when dialing a phone and 1.3 times more likely to crash or nearly crash when talking on it.

Distracted Driving InfographicThe NHTSA reports that 16 percent of all fatal auto crashes and 21 percent of all auto crashes causing injury are the result of distracted driving, including:

What Are Lawmakers Doing to Help?

Because many driver distractions are caused by cell phones, several states have acted to pass bans on their use while driving. In California, drivers are prohibited not only from texting while driving but also from talking on a cell phone not equipped with a hands-free device.

Despite these bans and despite increasing awareness by drivers that texting and engaging in other distracting behaviors while driving is dangerous, many drivers still choose to put their lives and the lives of others on the road at risk.

According to a 2009 survey by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, 95 percent of drivers surveyed agreed that texting while driving is dangerous and unacceptable. 21 percent of those surveyed, however, reported that they had recently sent a text or email while driving.

I recently spoke with a veteran San Francisco traffic officer, and he advised that, of the several recent times he was almost hit on his patrol motorcycle, 100% of the drivers were talking on the cellphone. And we also see police officers talking on their cellphones while driving, or texting despite the statewide ban. People generally understand and agree that distracted driving is more likely to cause accidents and injuries, however many people just won’t stop doing it.

In my personal opinion, many San Francisco traffic collisions are caused by momentary inadvertence or negligence. However, when that inadvertence results from someone talking on the cellphone or texting, that distracted driver has made a conscious and knowing choice and should be held accountable for reckless driving. Accountability is key. Only if we hold wrongdoers accountable will we be able to change their bad behavior. And this is how an attorney can help make the roadway safer. By making the distracted drivers accountable we can hopefully change their conduct ad reduce the number of personal injuries and wrongful deaths caused by distracted driving.

Contact a Personal Injury Attorney

If you or someone you love has been injured in a collision with a distracted driver, I recommend you contact a San Francisco personal injury attorney. A lawyer can evaluate your case and help you get the compensation you deserve if you have been harmed by a distracted driver. At the very least, a good personal injury attorney should be able to explain to you your options and the pros and cons of your potential claim. If you have a good claim, an experienced personal injury attorney should also be able to describe what you are likely to expect in terms of likely outcome, and the time it will take for the attorney and the courts to process the case. Most personal injury attorneys charge only if they obtain a recovery for you and the initial consultation is almost always free. For more information, contact an attorney today.

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