Rise in Fatal Car Accidents Sparks Aggressive Campaign Against Distracted Driving

There are numerous causes for vehicle collisions, but most of them involve the negligence of one or more drivers. And while many cases of negligence stem from aggressive driving and traffic violations, even more are the result of motorists simply not paying attention to the road. Distracted driving has increasingly become a problem across the country, in no small part thanks to keeping a cell phone in hand while behind the wheel.

What Is Distracted Driving?

Distracted driving counts as any activity that takes your focus away from the road while driving. This can include adjusting the radio, picking up a drink and, yes, talking and texting on cell phones. Whether your hands go off the wheel, your eyes leave the road, or your mind thinks of something else, that counts as distracted driving. Using a cell phone, which often involves all three of these distractions, is one of the most dangerous causes.

Any of these contributing factors can easily cause reduced reaction time to obstructions and changes in the road, which means that accidents are much more likely. In Minnesota alone, distracted driving accounts for twenty-five percent of fatal accidents according to the state Department of Public Safety. Between 2012 and 2016, that means 59 deaths and 223 serious injuries were the result of distracted driving accidents per year.

Campaigns Against Distracted Driving

April is Distracted Driving Awareness month, which is just one of the many efforts to spread awareness among motorists about the dangers of distracted driving. During this month, law enforcement agencies participate in a two-week campaign of ticketing motorists who operate vehicles while using their cell phones.

Minnesota law prohibits reading or composing text messages and emails while driving, as well as accessing web-based apps .. Despite this law, the number of tickets issued for violating this law has only increased. During the two-week campaign for Distracted Driving Awareness Month this year, law enforcement issued 1,576 tickets – an almost 50 percent increase from 2017.

Last year, the Minnesota Department of Public Safety reported that there were over 7,000 citations for drivers violating the laws regarding cell phones. Six years ago, there were only roughly 1,700 citations annually. Both the prevalence of cell phones and the heightened awareness of law enforcement officers has contributed to this increase.

Repeat Offenders

Many drivers commit violations because they are not aware that such a law is in place. However, just as many are repeat offenders. In April, a state trooper wrote a pickup truck driver a citation for texting and driving. That driver was using his phone to pay for the ticket for his previous violation of the same law two weeks before. It’s clear that the message isn’t quite setting in.

Because of the high number of accidents, many people have been pushing to make it illegal to use any form of hand-held electronics while driving – not just texting. Minnesota legislature is considering making such a law but the process is still under debate. Based on the results of a Facebook poll held in May, many state residents approve of this intervention.

Hands-Free Driving Laws

Many other states have already passed hands-free driving laws to help reduce the number of distracted drivers on the road. Back in May, Georgia became the 16th state to pass a hands-free driving law, while many other state legislatures are heading on the same path.

While there are many other factors that can contribute to distracted driving, there’s no doubt that cell phones and other electronics are one of them. As these technologies continue to develop and spread, it’s become even more important for motorists to understand the risks of using them while driving. Putting the phone down could be the difference between making it to your destination safe – or not making it home at all.

If you’d like more information on the legal liabilities and implications of a distracted driving accident, contact our office.