Did you know that driver distractions play a part in one out of every four motor vehicle crashes? According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, that’s more than 1.5 million collisions a year and 4,300 crashes daily which means text messaging or changing radio stations can prove deadly.
While cellphones and text messaging cause the most accidents, drivers can be distracted by navigational aids while driving. Other drivers create a potential hazard because they eat, drink or groom themselves when their full attention should be on the road.
In January 2010, the National Safety Council (NSC) released a report estimating that at least 1.6 million crashes are caused each year in the U.S. by drivers talking on cellphones (1.4 million crashes) and texting (200,000 crashes). *The estimate is based on data of driver cellphone use from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
A July 2009 Virginia Tech Transportation Institute study found that texting while driving is far more dangerous than previously estimated. The collision risk became 23 times higher when motorists were texting while driving. In addition, as of June 2010 eight states (California, Connecticut, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Utah and Washington State) plus the District of Columbia, ban the use of hand-held cellphones while driving.
EMPLOYERS MAY BE HELD LIABLE
Employers are now concerned that they may be held liable for accidents caused by their employees while driving and conducting work-related conversations on cellphones, according to the I.I.I. Under the doctrine of vicarious responsibility, employers may be held legally accountable for the negligent acts of employees. Employers may also be found negligent if they fail to create a policy for the safe use of cellphones.
The I.I.I. recommends the following safety tips when driving:
- Pull off the road to a safe location, while calling or texting.
- Use Speed Dialing Program frequently called numbers and your local emergency number into the speed dial feature in your phone for easy, one-touch dialing.
- Never Dial While Driving If you must dial manually, do so only when stopped.
- Take a Message Let your voice mail pick up your calls in tricky driving situations.
- Know When to Stop Talking Keep conversations on the phone and in the car brief so you can concentrate on your driving.
- Don’t Eat or Drink While Driving Spills can easily cause an accident. If you have to stop short, you could also be severely burned.
While everyone should follow these safety rules, it is particularly important to review them carefully with teens when they are first learning to drive. “Teens and Distracted Driving,” a Pew Internet & American Life Project 2009 survey of 800 young people, found that 26 percent of American teens ages 16 to 17 have texted while driving and 43 percent have talked on a cellphone while driving.