Using cell phones while behind the wheel is becoming an even more serious problem. According to Secretary of Transportation Raymond LaHood, there are 5,500 fatalities and 500,000 injuries each year due to distracted drivers using cell phones. Another expert in the field believes those numbers are great underestimates. Paul Atchley, who researches distracted driving for the University of Kansas, believes the numbers from the Department of Transportation are low because they only take into account known deaths and injuries and do not include accidents that were only suspected to have been caused by cell phones. Atchley believes the true number of injuries and deaths is far higher than LaHood’s and other current estimates, which, while very believable, is shocking considering that The National Safety Council estimates that 26% of accidents are caused by cell phones.
Hope for the Future?
LaHood is part of the Department of Transportation’s solution to decrease cell phone use in cars. According to Discovery, the Department of Transportation has begun studying the effects of cell phone disabling technology in vehicles. While it is currently illegal in many states to text and drive, and illegal in some to talk on a handheld cell phone, laws have done nothing to change drivers’ behavior or attitudes towards driving while using cell phones.
In 2013, Verizon, Sprint, T-Mobile, and AT&T started a campaign called “It Can Wait” to dissuade drivers from texting and driving. The campaign had no effect, as there are more accidents caused by cell phones now, three years later. The Department of Transportation is launching its own campaign called “Faces of Distracted Driving,” which follows the stories of victims of distracted driving. While social behavioral changes have shown to be unaffected in this regard, LaHood believes it is the most important goal to target. However, the Department of Transportation is also studying the effects of software devices such as Zoomsafter, iZup, and tXtBLocker. Each of these companies use a device to automatically turn off a cell phone when the car exceeds a particular speed. Unfortunately, cell phone jammers are currently illegal and not likely to be approved by the Federal Communication Commission any time soon.
Social Behavioral and Attitude Changes Towards Driving Distracted
LaHood still firmly believes that attitudes must change, and that laws and technology will not solve the growing problem of distracted driving. He likens the issue to drunk driving. He says, “When we ask young drivers about drunk driving, they say that judges should throw the book at drunk drivers, but not the person texting while driving.” Despite the general attitude towards drunk driving being much harsher than the attitude towards distracted driving, one third of all fatal traffic accidents are caused by drunk drivers. While attitudes do need to change, it may not be the cure all that some hope it will be. If you or a loved one have been injured by a distracted driver, contact an experienced car accident attorney today.
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