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Personal Injury Newsletter

Increase in Distracted Driving

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, distracted driving accounted for nearly 6,000 deaths in the United States in 2008 alone, and over half a million injuries. That fatality number accounts for 16 percent of traffic deaths. Distracted driving is on the rise, probably due to the increased availability and popularity of electronic gadgets that take the driver’s attention off the road. The use of cell-phones was dangerous enough by taking the driver’s focus off of driving, but now that most cells have texting capabilities, drivers are also likely to have their eyes off the road and their hands off the wheel.

Increasing Public Awareness of the Dangers of Distracted Driving

In April of 2010, the state of Michigan joined 22 other states in passing laws regarding texting while driving. The law, signed by Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm on the Oprah Winfrey show on April 30, 2010, outlaws reading texts as well as writing them while the vehicle is in motion. Fines for violations of the law range up to $100 for a first offense and $200 for a subsequent offense. Oprah has declared April 30 a National No Phone Zone Day and is urging everyone to give up this dangerous habit.

U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood has also taken on this topic and held a summit last September to address text-messaging and other distractions behind the wheel. The DOT has in fact established a website devoted to distracted driving, and Secretary LaHood continues to push for greater public awareness on this issue.

Drivers May Be Distracted Even Without Cell Phones

Distracted driving does not require modern technology. In her latest book, former First Lady Laura Bush describes a fatal car accident she was involved in as a teenager. In a hurry to a drive-in theater with a friend, Mrs. Bush ran a stop sign and smashed into a car driven by a fellow high school student, who died from injuries caused by the crash. The 1963 accident was well before the age of cell phones and texting, but Mrs. Bush does cite the fact that she was chatting with a friend at the time of the accident as a contributing factor in the accident.

State Laws Regarding Use of Cell Phone While Driving

Currently, several states, including California (Vehicle Code Sec. 23123) and New York (Vehicle and Traffic Article 33, Section 1225-c), prohibit drivers from using handheld cell phones while driving. If the phones are enabled with Bluetooth or other hands-free technology, the driver may still use the phone while driving, despite the fact that using the phone itself is a distraction that takes the driver’s mind off of driving, even though the driver’s hands may be on the wheel.

As new technologies abound, the law will continue to catch up and outlaw dangerous behavior. In many instances, evidence that a person violated a law is proof of negligence, especially when the violation causes the type of harm the law was intended to prevent. Cell phone records can be obtained to determine whether a person was talking or texting at the time of the accident, which may then be entered into evidence in a personal injury or wrongful death lawsuit.

Consult a Personal Injury Lawyer

If you or a loved one has been injured in a vehicle accident, contact a personal injury attorney in your area immediately for advice and assistance.

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