The United States Department of Transportation (USDOT) reports that in 2008, 5,870 people died in police-reported crashes in which at least one form of driver distraction was reported. This number represents 16 percent of total fatalities.
According to WBTV, almost 25 percent of the automobile accidents in the Charlotte-Mecklenburg area can be attributed directly to distracted driving. The North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT) says that the more inexperienced drivers, those under 20 years of age, are also the most likely to drive distracted.
To raise awareness of the problem, Charlotte Mayor Anthony Foxx signed a proclamation against distracted driving to kick off Drive Safely Work Week, an effort to bring attention to the inherent dangers of texting or talking on a cell phone while driving.
Drive Safely Work Week was followed by National Teen Driver Safety Week, an event aimed at bringing together teenagers, community leaders, educators and parents to increase awareness and prevent car crashes. Gene Conti, North Carolina Secretary of Transportation, explained that it is important for everyone to take an active role in teaching young drivers the responsibilities of safe driving.
The NCDOT statistics indicate that in 2008 there were nearly 46,500 traffic crashes involving 15- to 19-year-olds, leading to more than 8,000 injuries and 81 fatalities. Along with distracted driving, speeding, failing to yield and driving too fast for conditions were common contributing factors. Car crashes are the leading cause of death among American teenagers.
The United States Department of Transportation identifies three main types of distraction while driving:
· Visual: Distraction that takes the driver's eyes off of the road
· Manual: Distraction that takes the driver's hands off of the wheel
· Cognitive: Distraction that takes the driver's mind off of driving
Any distraction can endanger the safety of the driver, passenger and others on the road. This can include use of a cell phone, eating and drinking, grooming, reading maps, using a navigation system or watching a video. The USDOT says texting, however, is the most alarming because it involves all three types of distraction.
North Carolina Ban on Texting While Driving
North Carolina legislators enacted a texting ban effective December 1, 2009. Although a violation does not result in an accumulation of points on the driver's record, it will result in a fine of $100 plus court fees and assessment of an insurance surcharge.
Police Captain and supervisor of the Community Service Unit, Phil Blocker, said that five citations have been written in Mooresville since the ban went into effect. Mooresville Police Chief Carl Robbins says that he believes that texting goes on quite a bit but is not noticed, adding that it can be difficult for highway patrol to detect. Often police do not find out about distracted driving until they are on the scene investigating an accident.
In 2009, 126 teen drivers died in traffic crashes. Of those fatalities, eight were caused by a distraction. Additionally, over 8,000 wrecks involving teens were caused by distracted driving.
North Carolina legislation has prohibited teenagers from texting while driving since December 2007. Robbins explained that distractions such as texting, cell phones, and even passengers combined with inexperienced drivers make for a very dangerous mix.
The state legislature has prohibited cell phone use, whether or not in conjunction with a hands-free device, for all drivers under the age of 18 and school bus drivers. Minors caught talking on their phones while driving will be fined $25.
Additionally, minors are banned from the use of "other technology" while driving, which includes the use of digital cameras, electronic games, digital media, devices to connect to the Internet or to send, check or receive e-mail. The USDOT reports that drivers who use hand-held devices are four times as likely to be involved in crashes serious enough to injure themselves.
Hopefully, a combination of legislation and public awareness campaigns will lead to a decrease in car accidents both in North Carolina and nationwide.
Those who have been injured in car accidents by distracted or otherwise negligent drivers should speak with an experienced personal injury attorney. An attorney can evaluate any potential claims and advocate on your behalf.