Dangers of Distracted Driving

Did you know that distracted driving is one of the most dangerous things you can do on the road? Yes, even more than drunk driving! One day, texting while driving might be as socially unacceptable as drunk driving. But that day hasn’t arrived yet, which is why we’re seeing cases like these:

  • Four bus drivers in Knox County have been charged under a new law that prohibits school bus drivers from using electronic devices while on the road. The new law now mandates 30-day jail sentences for people convicted of this crime. Hamilton County was the first test of the law, but that case also involved vehicular homicide charges when six children were killed in the crash.
  • You know that solar eclipse coming up soon? TDOT has issued a public service announcement warning people not to stop their cars on the interstate or otherwise interfere with traffic while the eclipse is occurring. They are worried that people will wear eclipse glasses and drive down the roads. They are also expecting a huge increase in traffic volume since Tennessee is within the eclipse totality path.

On a much more serious note, traffic fatalities are up in Chattanooga over last year due to distracted driving. The city has the second highest traffic fatality rate in the state this year. So far this year, 65 traffic deaths have occurred, which is 13 more than this time last year.

What can be done to control distracted driving? These days even our vehicles seem like they’re designed to distract with new touchscreen interfaces and all sorts of connectivity options to our wireless devices. From the individual driver standpoint, there are a lot of things you can do:

  • The best thing is to turn off all wireless devices in the vehicle and ask your passengers to do the same. We’ve trained ourselves to feel like we need to respond to every buzz and beep, so shutting a device completely off is the best route. Consider your car like you would a movie theater.
  • If you must keep your phone on, use hands-free devices so you’ll never have to pick up your phone to use it. Keep your calls short and to the point. If traffic starts to get heavy, hang up. It’s better to stay safe.
  • Don’t eat in the car if you can help it. While it may not be illegal like texting, it is a form of distraction.
  • Keep your eyes out for other distracted drivers. Just because you’re safe doesn’t mean that the other drivers around you are!

If you are injured in an accident, any evidence that the other driver was distracted at the time will help your case considerably. The chances that your contributions to a percentage of fault in the crash will be much lower, which means more potential compensation. Likewise, if you’re shown to be distracted before an injury accident, your compensation will be at risk.

Don’t think you can hide it, either. Police are working on ways to detect whether you were using an electronic device prior to a crash. New York is examining a new device they’re calling a “textalyzer” that does just that. It’s still under development, but if it works well and holds up in court, it could create a chilling effect on distracted driving. Ultimately, that makes us all safer.