Texting & Cell Phone Use Behind Rising Roadway Deaths, Experts Say

As National Distracted Driving Awareness Month winds to an end, it is important to remember that the problem of driver distraction will still be present on our roads and highways. In fact, it will likely continue to be one of the main driving forces behind the rising number of deaths on our roadways, according to the National Safety Council, which recently published alarming data on the distracted driving epidemic.

As part of National Distracted Driving Awareness Month, the National Safety Council is calling attention to just how serious distraction can be when it takes place behind the wheel of a motor vehicle and how it is playing a significant role in causing an increasing number of preventable injuries and deaths. Here are a few of the notable findings they released earlier this month:

  • Over 40,000 people died in traffic accidents in 2016.
  • The number of roadways fatalities in 2016 was a 6% increase over the number of deaths in 2015.
  • Compared to 2014, 2016 saw a nearly 15% increase in auto accident-related deaths. That’s the largest two-year escalation in roadway fatalities in over 50 years.
  • More than 4.6 million people were injured serious enough in motor vehicle accidents to necessitate medical attention in 2016. That’s a 7% increase compared to the previous year.

2016 was the deadliest year on American roads since 2007. According to experts, the spike in fatalities is driven in part by the pervasive use of cell phones behind the wheel, and especially text messaging. This is because texting and using a cell phone is considered one of the most dangerous forms of driver distraction. Why? Because it commands multiple aspects of a driver’s attention:

  • Visual attention – Taking your eyes off the road is one of the most dangerous things you can do behind the wheel, and it substantially increases crash risks. When a person reads or composes a text, they devote their visual attention on their phones. At 55 mph, taking your eyes off the road to text for just 5 seconds means that you’ve driven the entire length of a football field blindfolded.
  • Manual attention – In addition to taking your visual attention away from the road and your surroundings, text messaging and using a cell phone requires the use of your hands. By commanding one’s manual attention, texting takes at least one hand off the wheel, and makes drivers less likely to react appropriately in collision-critical situations.
  • Cognition focus – When reading a text or writing a message in any form, a motorist is focusing their cognitive attention on something other than the primary task of driving. When you are thinking about a conversation rather than your surroundings, it creates a dangerous form of multi-tasking that can lead to inattention blindness.

Because texting, e-mailing, browsing the internet, and using smart phone apps all command a driver’s visual, manual, cognitive attention simultaneously, it is clear that handheld cell phone use while driving is one of the greatest threats to public safety. In an effort to address this risky multi-tasking, the National Safety Council is urging states across the nation to crack down on driver distraction and pass tougher laws, especially laws that prohibit texting and cell phone use for all drivers.

While most states in the U.S. have some type of distracted driving laws, they are not equally robust. In fact, many laws fall short in prohibiting dangerous distractions for all drivers. Other laws are also only secondary laws, which means police can’t enforce texting or cell phone use effectively and cannot issue citations or tickets to drivers without another traffic violation taking place.

Here are some details about Wisconsin’s distracted driving laws:

  • All drivers are prohibited from text messaging when driving.
  • Cell phone use (both handheld and hands-free) is prohibited for drivers with probationary licenses or instruction permits.

While Wisconsin does enforce a primary law that bans texting for all motorists, the state’s distracted driving laws still fall short by only banning cell phone use for novice drivers, rather than all motorists. This means drivers can still use a handheld cell phone and put others at risk of suffering preventable harm. Passing a handheld ban, as other states have done, would be a big step in fighting the distracted driving epidemic.

Even with tougher laws in place, however, distracted driving will still likely occur. Every day, drivers can be seen texting or using a handheld cell phone, which speaks volumes about the need to change the way our society views its relationship with cell phones. As more Americans are constantly plugged into their phones, it becomes important to raise awareness about the dangers of using a phone behind the wheel, the importance of making safety a priority, and the fact that a text or call can always wait until you are off the road. Raising awareness will likely be the key to stemming the tide of roadway deaths.

At Casey Law Offices, S.C., our Wisconsin car accident lawyer urges local residents to remember that texting and using a cell phone while driving can have devastating consequences that alter the lives of others. Because we also know that distracted driving is not a problem that will be resolved overnight, we also pledge our support and offer our services to victims who suffer injuries in car accidents that could and should have been prevented.

If you or a loved one have been hurt in any type of motor vehicle accident by a driver who was distracted at the time, you have the right to file a personal injury claim and pursue compensation for your damages, including any medical bills, lost income, pain and suffering, and more. Distracted driving is a negligent act, and motorists who choose to increase crash risks rather than upholding their legal duty to drive safely can be held accountable when their actions lead to preventable injuries or death.

To discuss a potential car accident case with a member of our legal team, contact us for a FREE consultation.

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