It is probably a kind of self-preservation that people go about their lives thinking that bad things — such as car accidents, household injuries, heart attacks, even dog bites — will not happen to them. Which might be a good thing considering if any one of us worried constantly about the possibility of injury or death, we probably would not get much done, much less get out of bed in the morning. Having health, car and life insurance helps people to at least protect themselves and their families from serious accidents that can have a life-changing effect on an individual and his or her loved ones.
On the flipside, not worrying or thinking about something doesn’t mean it can’t happen. Take automobile and commercial truck collisions; these events take place every day here in Maryland. Whether one lives or works in Rockville, Bowie, Columbia or even the District, odds are you or someone you know has been in a traffic-related accident sometime in the past. The same goes for pedestrian accidents and bicycling mishaps; of course, they happen every day, just not to us… right up to the point when they do happen to us.
As Maryland personal injury attorneys, we know that the actuarial tables paint a statistical picture of who might be involved in a life-altering event today, tomorrow, next week or next year. One of the constant contributors to accidents on the road over the years has been driver distraction. Decades ago, this probably meant spending too much time trying to “dial in” a radio station on an analog receiver, or having a heated discussion with one’s relatives while in dense traffic.
But, as technology has progressed over the years, drivers have been confronted with an ever-burgeoning collection of distractions competing for their attention, when all the while traffic conditions and the driving environment has become more and more challenging. It’s hardly a surprise that safety experts have been harping on the public to actively reduce those unnecessary distraction and keep their attention where it needs to be… on the road ahead.
According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) in Washington, D.C., distracted driving has become a legitimate health concern. Of course, it is not a virus, bacterial infection or other rampant disease, but the fact that more than 1,200 people are injured and another dozen or so killed each day has placed distracted driving up there with other threats to human health.
It’s not too difficult to define distracted driving, which basically means going about some kind of activity that diverts one’s attention away from the critical task of operating a two-ton motor vehicle along a roadway. What’s slightly more difficult is to pin down all the activities that distract a motorist’s attention and effectively increase the odds of that person being involved in a car, truck or motorcycle accident.
When asked to list the various acts that constitute the types of driver distraction, safety experts tend to point to a handful of common disruptions to the process of safe driving: visual, manual and cognitive. Each of these has its own set of related activities, and when combined can result in such a serious deficit in attention to the road that some have likened distracted driving to that of operating a car while under the influence of alcohol! Some of the obvious manifestations include taking one’s eyes off the road, removing one’s hand(s) from the steering wheel and allowing one’s mind to wander to thoughts other than operating the car, truck, motorcycle, boat or any other large and fast moving piece of machinery.
A generation or two ago, drivers didn’t have many of the distractions that vie for a driver’s attention in the 21st Century. Things like cellphones, smartphones, navigation systems, laptop computers, iPods, tablets, and the associated typing, reading, texting, listening and talking required to use and interact with those pieces of technology. It seems that only the radio and eating while driving are carryovers from the 20th Century.
As mentioned previously, combining all three of the distracted activities makes for a deadly combination, of which texting is the primary culprit, according to experts in the field. But how big is this problem, some may ask? Based on the CDC’s website, more than 5,000 people died in traffic wrecks in 2009 that could be tied to distracted driving. Many others — more than 440,000 — were injured as a result. That’s almost nearly a half million men, women and children hurt in traffic accidents caused by some kind of distracted driving.
Drilling down deeper, the CDC says that during 2009 almost 1,000 individuals were killed as a direct result of cellphone use while driving. (Almost 25,000 people were injured due to cellphone or smartphone use.) And if the statistics don’t paint a clear enough picture, consider that for driving public at large, one third of motorists stated that they felt less safe in traffic today than they did a mere five years ago.
We throw this out to you in the hopes that if a family member, friend or business associate is prone to texting or otherwise using a cellphone or other device while driving, pass on these tidbits of statistical information. It could save their life, and maybe the lives of people whom they never even met.