End Distracted Driving

August 19, 2015 | By R. Brendan Dummigan of Pickett Dummigan LLP

Authored by Chris Larsen

As the end of summer nears and kids go back to school, it’s time to redouble our efforts to end distracted driving. Distracted driving is doing anything that takes your attention away from driving. Many people think of driving while talking or texting on a cellphone as the main type of distracted driving. That’s certainly a big cause, although things such as reaching to adjust your radio or CD player, eating and drinking, looking at a map on your navigation system or grooming can be just as distracting. Looking away from the road ahead – even just for a few seconds — can be the difference between crashing or being able to quickly react in a constantly changing environment. Driving should command our entire attention, especially in dense urban environments when other more vulnerable road users are present. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reported that in 2012 driver distraction was the cause of 18 percent of all fatal crashes – with 3,328 people killed – and crashes resulting in an injury – with 421,000 people wounded. We call them “crashes” for a reason: “accident” implies that it could not have been prevented, but the fact is that most crashes are preventable.

We believe that the best way to end distracted driving is to do our part in educating our community about the danger it poses.

(Pictured: Attorney Chris Larsen educating kids about traffic safety)

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 10% of all drivers under the age of 20 that were involved in fatal crashes were reportedly distracted. This represents that largest age group of distracted drivers. These are our children, our friend’s children, our community’s children.

The statistics are helpful in telling part of the story:

▪ The Virginia Tech Transportation Institute found that text messaging creates a crash risk 23 times worse than driving while not distracted.

▪ 40% of American teens say they have been in a car when the driver used a cell phone in a way that put people in danger, according to a Pew survey, and 11% of drivers aged 18 to 20 who were involved in an automobile accident and survived admitted they were sending or receiving texts when they crashed.

▪ NHTSA acknowledges that there are inherent limitations in all the crash data, which consequently makes distracted driving under-reported.

For all the tragic stories that we hear about lives being lost due to texting and talking on cell phones, there are countless untold stories of near misses and tragedies narrowly averted. And for some those who have lost loved ones due a distracted driver, they are taking action. Like Joel Feldman, an attorney in Philadelphia who lost his 21-year old daughter, Casey, six years ago. That driver chose to take his eyes off the road to reach for something in his van, rolled through a stop sign, and struck Casey after she had already crossed one lane of traffic in the crosswalk, close to reaching the curb. Mr. Feldman is the founder of End Distracted Driving, recognized as one of the most effective distracted driving presentations by the Governors’ Highway Safety Association. Find out more at www.EndDD.org.

We are continuing to do our part in educating all road users in our community about traffic law and safety, including distracted driving, through the Share the Road Safety Class (SRSC) hosted at Portland’s Legacy Emanuel Hospital. More information can be found at: http://www.pickettdummigan.com/blog/2012/07/share-the-road-safety-class.shtml .

If you’d like to have your young driver attend the 2-hour SRSC, please call or email me (chris@pickettdummigan.com) and I’ll be happy to get them registered.

Let’s make this new school year a safe and happy one for our kids and our community