Despite the enormous efforts to raise public awareness regarding the dangers of texting and driving, drivers distracted by their cell phone while reading or sending a text continue to be a significant cause of catastrophic injury and wrongful death. At any given time, approximately 660,000 drivers are distracted by electronic devices or cell phones according to the federal government’s distracted driving website. These distracted drivers cause approximately 3,328 car accident-related fatalities and injure another 421,000 people annually. While anti-texting laws, increased enforcement and public awareness campaigns may have made roadways safer, texting and driving remains a serious cause of car accidents.
Attitudes Regarding Distracted Driving
Many drivers who emphatically reject drunk driving as an unacceptable practice might not view distracted driving as equally dangerous. Although these two forms of unsafe driving may not be perceived as comparable risks, there is evidence that distracted driving might be even more dangerous than committing DUI. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports that texting and driving is six times more dangerous than driving while under the influence of alcohol.
The recent case reported widely in the media that involved a distracted driver running down a bicyclist provides an extreme example. According to the Huffington Post, the bicyclist struck by the texting driver suffered a fractured spine necessitating a three month hospital stay.
The driver reportedly told the police several days after the accident, “I just don’t care because I’ve already been through a lot of bullshit, and my car is, like, pretty expensive, and now I have to fix it. I’m kind of pissed off that the cyclist hit the side of my car. I don’t agree that people texting and driving could hit a cyclist. I wasn’t on my phone when I hit the cyclist.”
Despite indicating she was not using her phone, the driver had used her phone 44 times before slamming into the bicyclist according to reports. After she hit the victim she parked 300 feet away and refused to render assistance. While this driver, who was later pleaded guilty to criminal charges, is not a Mississippi driver (thank goodness), her cavalier attitude is an over the top example of the way some people view the risk associated with distracted driving.
Ineffective Distracted Driving Laws
Many laws banning cell phone use while driving have enormous gaps or present enforcement challenges. Mississippi’s cell phone law provides an example of a law that has limited effectiveness. Mississippi texting and driving laws only apply to school bus drivers and novice drivers with a learner’s permit or provisional license. This means that drivers can use their cell phone for handheld calls, text messaging and any other activity while driving a motor vehicle. Because Mississippi is one of the few states that does not ban text messaging for all driver, drivers who see no particular danger in this type of high risk driving conduct endanger others on the road.
Even in other states where texting laws prohibit all drivers from text messaging while driving, the laws often provide limited effectiveness because they can be difficult for law enforcement officers to enforce. Police may have difficulty in determining that a driver is texting rather than using a cell phone for some other permitted purpose. Another reason for the ineffectiveness of many anti-texting laws is that a violation usually only results in a nominal fine rather than the types of severe penalties imposed for drunk driving.
Although Mississippi legislators have not chosen to ban text messaging while driving, the danger associated with this unsafe driving practices can hardly be overstated. Studies have revealed that the time a driver needs to avert his or her eyes to engage in reading or sending a text message is comparable to driving the length of a football field at 55 mph hour while blindfolded. The Virginia Tech Transportation Institute has conducted research indicating that the risk of being involved in a crash or near-crash is twenty times greater when texting and driving than when not using a cell phone.
If you or a loved one has been injured in a car accident or a loved one dies because of a collision caused by a distracted driver, you may be entitled to financial compensation for your injuries or loss. We invite you to contact our auto accident injury law firm for a free consultation with a Jackson, Mississippi car accident attorney. Call us today at (601) 355-2022 to see how we can help.