Car Accident Fatalities on the Rise Despite Cars Being Safer, Distraction a Leading Cause

Over the years, developments in auto safety technology have revolutionized the industry, prevented numerous injuries, and saved untold lives. While seat belts, airbags, and other vehicle safety features can reduce the risk of serious injuries and fatalities in car wrecks, they do not eliminate them. They also do not eliminate the risks posed by negligence. When drivers fail to uphold their legal obligation of taking reasonable measures to operate their vehicles safely, accidents, injuries, and deaths can still occur. According to a recent report from the National Safety Council, preventable negligence still remains a top concern on our roads, and the primary cause for an increase in traffic fatalities.

In its report, the National Safety Council noted an 8% increase in traffic-related deaths nationwide in 2015 compared to 2014, the greatest year over year increase in roughly 50 years. The first half of 2016 also recorded a 9% increase in traffic fatalities compared to the same period in 2015.

While the alarming increase in auto accident deaths may be attributed to many causes, including a better economy and more vehicles on the road, officials are citing the age-old problem of driver negligence and error as one of the most pressing concerns. In addition, experts are reporting that distracted driving is playing a big role in the recent increase in fatalities. This includes:

  • More handheld use of cellphones to send e-mails
  • Text messaging
  • Using a smartphone to access social media
  • The use of smartphone apps

The advent of smartphones has enabled us to remain connected and plugged in at all times. For many, the lure of distraction or the feeling that something needs to be handled often leads to drivers using a cellphone, emailing, or sending text messages when behind the wheel. Unfortunately, doing so significantly increases crash risks, as operating a phone commands a driver’s visual, manual, and cognitive attention simultaneously. These behaviors can be even more dangerous than simply using a handheld cellphone to make a call.

Distracted driving has become such a problem on our roadways that it is notably referred to as an epidemic, affecting motorists and pedestrians throughout the country. While states and even cities have passed laws and local ordinances to prohibit drivers from using handheld cell phones or texting while driving, experts state that it will take some time before laws, enforcement, and awareness about the dangers of driver distraction make an impact on the way motorists conduct themselves behind the wheel. The problem, they say, will likely get worse before it gets better.

In an effort to stem the tide of fatalities caused by distracted driving, lawmakers throughout the country have worked on passing and proposing legislation. This includes a proposed measure in New York that would allow authorities to use a “totalizer” that checks whether a cell phone was being used at the time of a serious crash, though it has raised privacy concerns. Other states have increasingly passed laws directly prohibiting cell phone use behind the wheel. In Florida, however, there only exists a ban on texting for all drivers, and as a secondary law, law enforcement cannot cite drivers for texting unless they commit another traffic offense. There is clearly room for improvement in distracted driving laws.

While experts and lawmakers work to explore solutions to the distracted driving epidemic, it is still vital for all motorists to know their rights and responsibilities whenever they get into a motor vehicle. Simply put, all drivers have a legal duty to drive safely. Using a cell phone and failing to make the act of driving a priority means that drivers fail in upholding their legal duty. When accidents and injuries occur as a result, distracted drivers can be held fully accountable for their negligence, and liable for the damages victims suffer, which can include the costs of medical care, lost earnings caused by time off work, and pain and suffering, among other damages.

Wes Pittman has spent over 30 years protecting the rights of the injured and the wronged, including victims harmed in preventable auto accidents. Throughout the years, distracted driving has been the cause of more and more accidents, and Mr. Pittman has gained extensive experience holding distracted drivers liable for the damages our clients suffered.

If you have questions about your rights and potential case following a car accident involving a driver who may have been using a cellphone or was distracted at the time, The Pittman Firm, P.A. is available 24/7 to help. Contact us to discuss your case during a FREE consultation.
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