Texting And Driving Can Be Deadly
If you understand the sentence above, there’s a good chance you’re probably guilty of one of the newest – and most dangerous – practices on the road today. Even though it is referred to as “shorthand” texting, telling someone that “Oh my God, got to go before my girlfriend gets here – be seeing you later” by typing it on your cell phone while driving is more often the short route to a tragic car crash.
There is an obvious paradox regarding the evolvement of today’s advanced personal communication technology: While most people agree that it greatly improves our day-to-day lives, they also agree that using it at an inappropriate time or place can be deadly.
Specifically, sending text messages, or “texting”, as it is commonly known, while behind the wheel of a car has been found to be just as dangerous as driving while drunk or impaired. In fact, the practice is often called “DWT”, for “Driving While Texting”. The resemblance to the more infamous “DUI” or “DWI” acronyms is purely intentional.
Countless studies reveal startling information about how seriously dangerous texting while driving can be. A recent Virginia Tech Transportation Institute study found that manual text messaging elevated the risk of a crash or near crash to more than 23 times higher than “nondistracted” driving. A study by the national Safety Council reports that 28 percent of car crashes are caused by either talking or texting while driving. Over 50 percent of teenage drivers, the segment of motorists found to be the most dangerous on the road, have admitted to texting while driving. But, putting the blame on teenagers is not fair – a startling 81 percent of the U.S. population also admits to the same practice.
In September of last year, Department of Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood convened a national Distracted Driving Summit in order to draw attention to the problem, and to develop solutions and gain input from those involved in the transportation industry. One result of the summit was the creation of FocusDriven, an organization dedicated to raising American public awareness about the dangers of driving while talking on cell phones or texting on handheld communication devices and PDAs. The organization will be modeled after Mother Against Drunk Drivers, (MADD), which has successfully lobbied for tougher drunk driving laws. Safety advocates are pushing states to do the same thing for texting and cell phone use. DOT Secretary LaHood has been quoted as saying he “is on a rampage against distracted driving”, and the administration has made the issue one of their top priorities. DOT officials also announced the launch of http://www.distraction.gov/, a new website developed solely to address the growing problem, and save lives on America’s roadways. The site contains news, facts and statistics and ongoing updates regarding the administration’s efforts to curb the problem on the national level. Additional statistical information is available on the website for the National Safety Commission, (http://www.NationalSafetyCommission.com), crediting recent academic studies, which say that “using a wireless communications device while driving is one of the most significant distractions that affects driving performance.”
The good news is that pending legislation in Florida that would ban the practice and make it illegal is rapidly gaining momentum. On March 10th, a House committee unanimously approved a bill that would ban receiving or sending a text message while operating a moving vehicle. A similar bill has been filed in the State Senate, and Governor Charlie Crist has said he supports passage of the new laws. Locally, lawmakers are hopeful for a quick enactment in an effort to save lives in Florida roadways. However, while progress is being made, many are concerned that actual enforcement of the law will be an uphill battle, implying that the bill would have limited effectiveness. Another potential problem is that the current bills would make texting while driving a “secondary offense”, meaning law enforcement would not be able to cite a driver for that offense alone, without the existence of a “primary offense” for which the driver may be pulled over. Still, Florida lawmakers seem to be eager to take what they can get at this point. The Associated Press quotes Rep. Gary Aubuchon, R-Cape Coral, who is chairman of the Roads, Bridges and Ports Policy Committee that forwarded the proposed bill to the House, as saying, “When you’re offered a ham sandwich, sometimes it’s better to take the ham sandwich instead of waiting for the steak that might never come. By having a law on the books, we will get compliance that we don’t have today.”
On another positive note, a new service has sprouted from this relatively new national epidemic that may help prevent car crashes involving distracted driving. DriveSafe.ly is a new mobile phone application that actually converts incoming text and SMS messages into audio messages, and reads them out load in real time via your phone or PDA. There is even an option to set up a customized response feature, allowing you to hear and respond to your messages without ever touching your phone. For details, visit their website.
Personal injury attorney Scot D. Goldberg, founding partner of the Goldberg, Racila, D’Alessandro & Noone law firm in Fort Myers, reminds all Florida drivers about the very real dangers of driving while distracted. “Driving while texting is unfortunately quickly becoming the new DUI, and the resulting car crashes are just as tragic for those involved,” he says. “People need to realize the consequences are just as potentially deadly, and make more effort to remain focused on the road when they’re behind the wheel”.
If you have been injured due to the negligence of a distracted driver, our firm’s aggressive representation of your legal rights will help you attain the financial compensation you deserve. To learn more, contact us at 239-461-5508