A sobering study by Consumer Reports regarding mobile device use for drivers under the age of 30 recently found that of those surveyed:
63% used a cell phone while driving in the last 30 days;
30% texted while driving in the past 30 days;
Only 36 % were very concerned with distracted driving;
Only 30% thought using a cell phone while driving was very dangerous; and
58% saw a dangerous situation because of distracted driving in the last 30 days.
Consumer Reports released this data just as it is beginning a joint public services campaign with the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT). The campaign aims to bring awareness of the dangers of distracted driving to young people.
According to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration, distracted driving injured almost half a million people in 2009, and killed nearly 5,500. The Virginia Tech Transportation Institute found that dialing a phone makes it six times more likely to get into an accident, while texting while driving multiplies the chance of an accident by 23.
Car accidents are currently the leading cause of teenager deaths in the U.S., with one in three teen deaths occurring on the road. According to the Centers for Disease Control, drivers aged 15-24 account for $26 billion in vehicle injuries, almost 30 percent of overall costs from car injuries in the U.S. Only about 14 percent of drivers are aged 15-24. This data is supported by what we see in our personal injury law practice, in that in most cases involving texting while driving, a teenager is the at-fault driver.
Creating and Enforcing Texting While Driving Bans:
Currently 30 states ban texting while driving. In some states, such as North Carolina, the law is primary. This means that a driver texting can be pulled over for that reason alone. In some states, however, the law is secondary, meaning the driver must be doing something else illegal before being pulled over.
In either case the law is difficult to enforce. For example, law enforcement officers in North Carolina issued only 71 tickets to drivers for texting in 2009. The joint campaign by the U.S. DOT and Consumer Reports hopes to educate young drivers rather than relying on enforcement. If their recent survey is any indication, the campaign is much needed.
At Davis Law Group, we talk with car and truck crash victims each week where the at-fault driver was either on a cell phone or texting while driving at the time of the accident. The roads are certainly more dangerous because of these devices, and I have discussed these dangers and many of the solutions in prior posts on this subject.
We strongly encourage all drivers to drive defensively, turn off your cell phone while in the car, wear your seatbelt, and keep your eyes on the road at all times.