April is Distracted Driving Awareness Month, and our Asheville car accident lawyers believe it’s an important time to underscore the danger that occurs every single time you take your eyes off the road.
It isn’t always a cell phone. Sometimes it’s an application of mascara. A bite of your lunch wrap. An adjustment to speaker volume. Turning to scold an ornery child.
But as smartphones have become increasingly common over the last handful of years, the number of related crashes has soared. The North Carolina Department of Transportation reports that at least 140 fatal crashes in the state in 2012 involved a driver who was distracted. That accounts for nearly a quarter of all the accidents that happened that year. The actual number is probably quite a bit higher, as not all distractions are plainly obvious to traffic investigators.
Those same figures are borne out nationwide as well. The National Safety Council reports that 26 percent of all crashes result directly from cell phone use – a 1 percent increase from the previous year.
Interestingly, the NSC reports that only 5 percent of cell phone crashes happen because of a texting driver. The majority involve vehicle operators who are simply talking on the phone – and that includes hands-free devices.
Although text-to-voice features have been touted as a safer alternative to texting with a handheld device, the reality is that both actions are equally risky. A 2009 study published in the Journal of Safety Research found virtually no difference in driving performance comparing users of hands-free devices to handheld devices.
The NCS estimates that approximately 245,300 crashes that occurred so far this year can be attributed to cell phone users. One of the biggest problems with someone who is talking on a cell phone is delayed reaction time. A report issued by the council earlier this year indicated that the percentage of drivers observed using handheld electronic devices ticked up from 0.9 percent back in 2010 to 1.3 percent the following year.
So far, twelve states and D.C. have made it illegal for all drivers to use a handheld electronic device behind the wheel.
North Carolina is one of those states in which legislators have taken the issue seriously. Handheld cell phones are illegal for use by all drivers, and it’s considered a primary offense. All drivers are also barred from texting while driving, and this too is a primary offense.
Although these laws can serve as a deterrent, it’s important also for employers to make sure they have anti-distraction policies in place for workers who must spend part of their work day behind the wheel. Those who fail to do this are opening themselves up to possible liability if that worker causes a crash while communicating on their smartphone.
Contact the Asheville injury lawyers at the Lee Law Offices by calling 800-887-1965.
Officers warn against distracted driving, try to curb dangerous habit, April 4, 2014, By Bailey Hicks, WECT.com
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