We have all seen the car that wanders across traffic lanes erratically moving down the road causing a safety risk to all on the roadway. As you pull by this slowly moving and meandering vehicle there is inevitably some person on their phone reading or sending a text. In the now society that we live in, it just doesn*t seem that the message can wait until the driver is, well, not driving.
Recently, there was an estimate of Crash Risk carried out by Thomas Dingus, Richard Hanowski, and Sheila Klaure, called Estimating Crash Risk. The research included *Naturalistic driving research*, which involves video cameras and *black box* type readings to precisely measure participants of a study as they would normally drive. The information includes driver recordings right up to impact in car crashes and close-calls. In essence, the results provide real life occurrences.
The research revealed that listening and talking on cell phones while driving is not particularly risky for standard consumer automobiles. The results did show that texting, typing, reading, dialing, and reaching for a phone create clear and present dangers to the driver and others on the roadway. The research concluded that vehicle manufacturers and aftermarket suppliers need to focus on minimizing interaction with devices while operating a vehicle, thereby minimizing eyes-off-road time. This seems to be a no-brainer. Keep your eyes on the road, but there is more to it than that. Distraction is more than just visual. Broken concentration where one is going back and forth from roadway to device appears to cause significant risk for a car crash. The research project suggests installing simple interfaces that lock out features while the vehicle is in motion as well as the use of auditory or voice interfaces.
Interestingly enough, the researchers also concluded that manufacturers of various electronic devices should develop modes for their devices that limit or restrict used while operating a vehicle, drawing a comparison to *airplane mode.* The research further suggests that devices should integrate via Bluetooth or wireless to interact seamlessly with in vehicle programs, which will lock out all the most complex features while a vehicle is in motion. The researchers also suggested a public education campaign to inform the public of the relative risks of the various tasks that are commonly accomplished in a moving vehicle. It is suggested that people will modify their behavior if they understand the risks and have reasonable alternatives.
While texting bans are a good start, they will not work alone. This is why the researchers suggest integrated systems between vehicle programs and electronic devices, which require affirmative behavior to remove safety protocols. In the end, the cautionary tale is that complex electronic programs, including texting and emails subject the public to an unreasonable risk of harm and something must be done. Disabling features may be the next step in the process.
The takeaway from all this is that performing tasks on electronic devices while driving creates an unreasonable risk of harm to others. Drivers should remember that in the evolving information age it is becoming much easier to pin-point electronic device use while driving in car crash cases. This could lead to developing litigation aimed at pursuing punitive damages in car crash cases due to the known risk that texting or emailing creates while operating a vehicle. Those of us with teenage children have special concern as the combination of in-experienced drivers and distracted driving can be particularly deadly. Education is the key as it has become abundantly clear that distracted driving is dangerous.
What to Do if you are the victim of a distracted driver
If you have been the victim of a car crash caused by a distracted driver, please call us as we are experienced in these matters. It is important to try and get phone records as soon as possible to evidence that the distracted driver was in fact communicating on a device at the time of an accident.
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