Do you use your cell phone while driving? If you are like most people, your answer is yes. Unfortunately, anything you do as you drive takes your focus and attention away from the road and the traffic—including talking or texting on a cell phone. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, approximately 33% of all fatal traffic accidents can be attributed to distracted driving. Distracted driving includes eating, reading, using hand-held devices, putting on makeup, managing pets or children, and just about anything else that takes your eyes off the road. Roughly 50% of distracted driving accidents are due to cell phone usage, whether it is talking or texting.
Operating an automobile requires the complete and undivided attention of the driver. It is imperative to watch the road and traffic by constantly scanning and assessing the current surroundings. Even taking a second or two to look at the radio, answer the cell phone, or read a text message could lead to an accident. Now imagine that 3 or 4 out of every 10 cars on the road hare being driven by someone who is distracted—you’ve seen them with their phone on top of the steering wheel trying to text and drive. Or maybe they are driving with one hand on the wheel and the other is holding a phone up to their ear. Consequently, they are not focusing on driving and they are an accident waiting to happen.
Currently, Missouri has a statute banning texting by a driver under the age of 21 but nothing banning or restricting cell phone usage while driving for adults over 21. The 2012 Legislative year in Missouri saw at least seven driver distraction bills brought forth but none reached the floor for voting, thus our state is one of eleven without any laws regarding cell phone usage while driving. In 2010, there were over 40,000 traffic fatalities in the U.S., as reported by the U.S. Department of Commerce. It is estimated that 12,000 to 16,000 were attributed to distracted driving. In Missouri, roughly 500 of the 1,500+ fatal traffic accidents were due to a driver not paying attention to the road.
What can you do to reduce the risks to you and your family? First and foremost, if you are driving either turn off your cell phone or silence the ringer. After all, nothing should be more important that you and your family’s safety. Second, pay attention to the road and traffic—become a defensive driver. Watch the movements, actions and reactions of the other vehicles and the driver. Never assume you have the right of way and never assume the other drivers are not distracted. It is much easier to avoid or prevent a wreck if you are watching out and driving carefully.
What can you do if you are the victim of a distracted driver? Tend to yourself and your family first, and then decide together if pursuing legal action against the other driver is in your best interest. Contact an attorney knowledgeable and skilled in wrongful auto accident injuries to determine if your case is relevant and strong enough to bring to trial. The intention of initiating a lawsuit is to defer any medical costs you and your family suffered, loss of wages, and any emotional anguish suffered due to the car accident. An attorney will answer all your questions and give you the support and guidance needed to help you decide the next step. Remember, distracted driving can cause serious consequences to you and everyone involved. Nothing in your life and your family’s life is more important that being safe, healthy and alive.