Recently, The Charlotte Observer reported an 80-year-old driver blew through a stop sign and crashed into a marked police cruiser in New Jersey. Ironically, the patrolman in that vehicle had been assigned to enforce the state’s “U Drive, U Text, U Pay” campaign aimed at curbing distracted driving.
The driver was reportedly distracted by his cell phone navigation feature at the time of the crash. He failed to see the stop sign and breezed right through it, suddenly slamming into the police officer, who suffered a hand injury.
April is Distracted Driving Awareness Month, and the National Safety Council recently conducted a survey showing 47 percent say they are “comfortable” texting while driving. Meanwhile, The Charlotte Observer reports pedestrian deaths in North Carolina have risen to the highest they have been in 40 years – a trend police attribute to higher rates of driver distraction. And a new report by CNN Money reveals distracted drivers are resulting in higher than ever insurance rate hikes. In fact, as The Charlotte Observer reports, the state Department of Insurance in North Carolina reported there will be an average 13.8 percent increase in auto insurance rates. If approved, those rates would go up Oct. 1st. Drivers “addicted to smartphones” are cited by the insurance industry as a top reason why insurance rates must go up.
A survey by State Farm Insurance indicated 1 in 3 drivers text while driving. About a third access the internet while driving. Some (like the driver in New Jersey) are dialed into their phone’s GPS, others are engaged in social media while still others are reading or responding to emails.
These aren’t the only distractions, of course. Drivers read, fiddle with the radio or groom themselves from behind the wheel. But it is the mobile devices that garner the most attention.
The NHTSA estimates that 33,000 people were injured in 2014 car accidents involving a cell phone, which includes texting-and-driving or surfing the internet. That accounts for 8 percent of all people injured in crashes.
It is against the law in North Carolina to send or read text messages while driving.
Yet people continue to do it, and it appears to be contributing to a rise in motor vehicle deaths nationwide. Early national government estimates are that 40,200 people were killed in traffic crashes across the country last year, an uptick of 14 percent since 2014. This is occurring even as vehicles are getting safer due to better design and technology. Yes, the economy is improving and gas prices have stayed low so we’re seeing more people on the roads. But we cannot overlook the significant role that distraction has played in all this.
In Massachusetts, insurers are increasing auto insurance premiums by 6 percent. The head of that state’s division of insurance specifically cited the increase in smartphone use by drivers as a core reason. Meanwhile in South Carolina, auto insurance rates climbed nearly 9 percent last year.
Insurers say that while distracted driving has virtually always existed since the beginning of the automobile, it got exponentially worse with smartphones – and continues to be an increasingly troubling issue as more applications for smartphones become available.
Young people appear to be disproportionately affected by this, but as the recent distracted driving accident in New Jersey shows, older populations aren’t immune either.
Contact the Carolina injury lawyers at the Lee Law Offices by calling 800-887-1965.
People Who Text and Drive Are Jacking Up Your Insurance Premiums, March 20, 2017, By Brad Tuttle, CNN Money
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North Carolina Motorcycle Accident Spurs Uninsured Motorist Dispute, April 10, 2017, Distracted Driving Accident Lawyer Blog