The number of motor vehicle accidents, deaths, and injuries attributed to distracted driving continues to be a national concern.
The drastic increase in motor vehicle fatalities in 2015 and 2016 broke a 50-year trend in the decrease in motor vehicle fatalities. While motor vehicle deaths were about the same in 2017 as they were in 2016, distracted driving is still a significant concern.
Worse, pedestrian deaths are also on the rise at almost 10% each of the last two years as both drivers and pedestrians are watching their phones instead of paying attention to where they are driving or walking. I have seen pedestrians in Chicago crossing the street against a red light oblivious to traffic as they stare at their smartphones while listening to music.
In July of 2017, a pregnant mother and her three young children were instantly killed when the driver of a pickup truck ran a stop sign and broadsided the car with the woman and her children. The state’s attorney who charged the driver with 16 counts of reckless homicide was tightlipped when asked questions if texting and driving were involved. In the blink of an eye, a father and husband lost his pregnant wife and three young children aged 1, 4, and 6. The charged driver with no prior traffic violations may face 10 years in prison and the rest of his days knowing he took the lives of five innocent people.
The dangers of driving while under the influence are well established, but why do so many people accept the risks associated with texting and driving? Reasons include the false confidence texting and driving can be done safely and the fact many offenders have yet to experience an accident.
This may sound counterintuitive, but motor vehicle safety technology may also contribute to the problem as drivers feel safer with features such as lane departure warning, front end collision avoidance, adaptive cruise control, and complete airbag systems. Additionally, complex infotainment, navigation systems, and vehicle controls, only serve to add to the distractions drivers face in operating their vehicles.
How many more people have to die before this problem is eliminated, or at least reduced? This is maddening because it is so easily prevented. Technology solutions will likely come from smartphone and automobile manufacturers, but until that happens, put the phone down and concentrate on the most important task at hand; safely operating your vehicle. Remember, you have no right to put the safety of others at risk while operating a motor vehicle just because you want to stay “connected”.
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