Distracted driving – in particular, texting on mobile communications devices – continues to be tagged as an increasing cause of auto accidents that routinely trigger wrongful death and personal injury cases. A new study shows that motorists who text and drive routinely have their eyes off the road 4.6 out of every 6 seconds they’re typing on their tiny keyboards.Across the country and even around the globe, legislative efforts to curb this dangerous practice are growing by leaps and bounds. Last month, U.S. Transportation Ray LaHood announced increased federal penalties for truck and bus drivers caught texting and driving – with fines of up to $2750 threatened to those violating the new statute.
In Washington State, the state senate recently toughened their cell phone driving law on February 4th, making it easier for police to ticket drivers texting or talking on a cell phone without a headset (incidentally, though many states do permit the use of hand-free headsets for phone calls, studies show they’re just as dangerous to rely on while driving).The new law, which passed 33-15, upgrades the law to make using a cell phone while driving a primary offense, rather than a secondary one. Washington Senator Tracey Eide, sponsor of the bill, told the Associated Press, “It’s becoming an epidemic, people are not paying attention, and it’s extremely serious.”
Opponents to the bill thought the fight against distracted driving might just distract police from more important matters. “I just have to ask whether the most important thing for law enforcement to do right now is to be out looking to see if people are using their cell phones incorrectly,” commented Washington senator Cheryl Pflug.While most agree distracted driving increases the odds of auto accidents which cause wrongful death and personal injury, some new research questions whether the new legislative efforts are actually effective in stopping the dangerous practice.
According to the Highway Loss Data Institute, insurance auto accident claims for wrongful death and personal injury didn’t budge one way or the other after distracted driving laws were passed in various states and local communities. The Institute believes this doesn’t bode well for those expecting some kind of safety pay-off from the new laws. About 1.7 million vehicle claims were used for the study.On the other hand, actual behavior may be changing because of the new awareness of the dangers of distracted driving. SmartDrive Systems, based in San Diego, said its Distracted Driving Index, a quarterly measurement of commercial drivers who engage in distracted driving, fell from 17.9% in the 3rd quarter of 2009 to 15.8% in the fourth quarter.