Tag Archives: distracted driving laws

National Highway Traffic Safety Administration Releases New Distracted Driving Report

Thirty-five states in the US have banned texting while driving—but that doesn’t mean people are putting down their phones. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration asked 6,000 drivers last year about their driving habits, and the vast majority (90%) of respondents said that they would support a rule that banned texting while driving. In spite of this, two in ten drivers admitted to texting or sending emails behind the wheel. Even more concerning is that among younger drivers (aged 20-24), 50% admitted to texting while driving.

It seems most drivers seemed to think that even when they were engaging in distracting behavior, they were still able to drive safely; whether they were texting, putting on make-up or even reading the paper. But over 3,000 people died last year from accidents caused by distracted drivers, and most of those distractions were cell phone related. Ray LaHood, Transportation Secretary, is attempting to pass federal legislation that bans texting while driving and stops senseless deaths. While we can hope that if this legislation passes more people will avoid distractions, safe driving really starts with you.

That is exactly why I started Teens Against Distracted Driving (TADD.) It is up to each of us not only to drive safely, but also to spread awareness about the dangers of distracted driving. There are lots of ways that you can help: you can take our pledge (and get a free bracelet!), you can spread awareness at your school, you can take our survey or you can check out some of these great sites and resources. Texting and driving is an epidemic, but it can be stopped one driver at a time!


New iPhone Safe for Use While Driving?

Communication technology that is designed to make out lives easier, cooler and more entertaining has a frustrating way of endangering drivers. Most everyone recognizes that texting and driving is incredibly irresponsible, and many try to stay off the phone, especially the handheld variety. But Siri, the beguiling digital assistant in the iPhone 4s, is an interesting new case.

The great thing about Siri is that you can ask her questions with hands at ten and two, but in order to get a response, you have to switch your attention from the road to her text answer displayed on the phone; you must take your eyes off the road to focus them on a 4 inch by 3 inch screen. It’s here that Siri isn’t much safer, if at all, than is texting a friend or fighting a crazed jungle cat while driving.

The most obvious use of Siri’s helpful features when you’re on the road is her navigation capabilities. Here’s where things get dicey: if you’re asking her for help with directions, and she pulls up a map, is it much different than the GPS devices considered safe by many?

It’s a gray area, both in terms of functionality and legality. Distracted driving legislation varies wildly state by state, though most have laws against people under 18 using phones at all while behind the wheel. States like California are just now passing laws that fine drivers for texting while driving instead of simply enforcing anti-cell phone laws as secondary offenses. Sadly, it’s unlikely that any state’s laws will be passed before the next, more advanced phone comes out and requires further legislation to account for it.

But even with the law’s somewhat futile chase to catch up with rapidly developing technology, a simple, common sense law will still hold true: when in control of a 1,200 pound hunk of metal traveling at speed, full attention should be paid to the road.

Ideally, advances in automated, collision-preventing safety features along with devices with which drivers can interact without using eyes or hands will make technology a safety-enhancing force on the roads. There will be cell phones that partially shut down when connected to a vehicle, or vehicles will have such advanced collision detection systems that a level of distraction provided by communication devices will have less devastating and tragic results. But those days are a ways off.

For now, as awesome and hilarious as Siri may be, when it comes to road safety, her advancements in interactivity do not do much more than provide a new way to be distracted while driving. Do yourself and the people around you a favor, and wait until you are safely pulled over to ask Siri incredibly pressing questions, like where the nearest and best place is to get a burrito.

Beckley Mason writes a street safety blog for GJEL Accident Attorneys.


New York Adds Teeth to Laws Against Texting While Driving

Governor Andrew Cuomo of New York  said today that he will be introducing new legislation that will crack down on drivers using portable devices while driving. The legislation will include a provision to make texting while driving a primary offense like it is in Washington. Currently, texting while driving is a secondary offense, meaning police can only issue a ticket if the driver is pulled over for another offense, like speeding.

The legislation introduced by Cuomo would make using any portable device while driving, including iPhones and Blackberries, a primary offense. The bill would also increase the penalty from two to three points on a person’s license, and distracted driving curriculum will be made mandatory for anyone seeking a license. The maximum fine will stay the same at $150.

In a statement, Cuomo said that “Every day, countless drivers, particularly teenagers and young adults, drive with their eyes on a screen rather than the road.” He also said  “Distracted driving is nothing less than a lethal activity for the driver themselves, other drivers on the road, and pedestrians.”

Records from the state Department of Motor Vehicles showed that there were almost 332,000 tickets issued in the state of New York for cell phone use while driving and only 3,200 for texting while driving. This data is from 2010, the first full year that cell phone use was considered a primary offense.

Assembly Transportation Committee chairman David Gantt said last week that the bill is expected to pass before session ends June 20. Gantt remains hopeful that a deal can be reached, and Cuomo says that he is working with lawmakers to get an agreement this session. Distracted driving has been a problem in New York where several fatal accidents have occurred as a result of distracted driving in the past few years.

In June, 2007, five teenage girls died in a car crash linked to texting. In December of the same year, a 20-year-old man died in a crash while sending a text message. In 2009, a 22-year old woman died as a result of texting while driving which caused her to crash into a truck. These accidents caused many counties to pass their own laws making texting while driving a primary offense, but state laws superseded them.

It is very encouraging to see that other states are joining the fight against distracted driving. By September of this year, there will be 32 states where texting while driving is a primary offense. Distracted driving is far too dangerous to ignore. A study done at the University of Utah showed that while people are texting and driving it reduces their attention level down to that of a person with an alcohol level of 0.08%. People know about the dangers of distracted driving, but continue to put their lives and the lives of others in danger. I hope that laws similar to this one are passed in all 50 states so that we can be one step closer to winning the battle against distracted driving.

Teens Against Distracted Driving was founded by Seattle personal injury attorney Jason Epstein. Jason’s law firm, Premier Law Group, helps victims of serious injuries caused by the negligence of others. To speak with Jason about TADD or about a personal injury you have suffered, call Premier Law Group at (206) 285-1743