Everywhere you turn, people are using their smart phones or electronic devices.  Oftentimes, pedestrians on their cell phones are looking down and are not paying attention to the what’s in front of them.  In fact, these people are now called “smartphone zombies.”  A smartphone zombie is described as someone “who walks slowly and without attention to their surroundings because they are focused on their smartphone.” 

Even though that’s a humorous name for people we all know (and might be ourselves) who use their cellphones while walking, there can be serious consequences for distracted walkers.  For example, when the Pokemon craze hit this last summer there were reports of distracted gamers walking into ponds, running into other pedestrians, and even falling off of cliffs!  Now imagine those people behind the wheel of a car or truck!

According to a recent survey, nearly 70% of teens say they use smart phone apps while driving.   When the teens responding to survey were asked about dangerous driving behaviors, they ranked driving while intoxicated and texting while driving as more dangerous than using apps while driving.   Even though 95% of the teens surveys agreed that driving while using applications was dangerous, further testing showed that 80% of those same teens did not perceive using apps while driving as distracting.

Driving while distracted has become an epidemic and has led to numerous automobile crashes and automobile accidents. Distraction.Gov provides the following startling statistics about distracted driving in 2014:

1.    Distracted driving was involved in crashes where 3,179 people were killed and 431,000 were injured;
2.    10% of all drivers 15 to 19 years old involved in fatal crashes were driving while distracted;
3.    At any given moment during the day, 660,000 drivers are using cell phones or using other electronic devices while driving.

In Missouri, the legislature has taken steps to prevent drivers under the age of 21 from using an electronic device while driving (304.820.1 R.S.Mo.).    Under Missouri law, it is currently an “infraction” for anyone under the age of 21 to use an electronic device while driving, which means that a driver can have points assessed against his/her license and receive a fine for driving while using an electronic device.  This could have effects on the driver’s insurance rates and potentially their ability to drive.

Even though some believe this law does not do enough, it’s a step in the right direction.  But, there are steps we can all take to avoid distracted driving accidents, crashes, and interactions with law enforcement.

What Can Be Done?

Awareness is a big first step.  A vast majority of cellphone users may admit that they’ve used their cellphone or looked at their cellphone (or other electronic device) while driving.  The stats show that’s a normal thing to do in the age of cellphones and electronic devices.  However, once you’ve either been affected by distracted while driving or have seen the affects of distracted while driving, you realize that the stakes are too high and that the text, game, or notification can wait. 

When we’re driving, the most important task we have is to focus on driving.  Over 3,000 people were killed and over 430,000 people were injured in automobile accidents and crashes involving distracted drivers.  We can all take proactive steps to lower that number.

Steps we can take at home include proactive parenting.  Be sure to talk with your children about safe driving habits.  Take phones from children who do not handle them responsibly.   Think about this:  A distracted driver can have their eyes diverted for five seconds when looking at a text.  That’s enough time to drive the length of a football field while blindfolded.  Parents (and all drivers), research and consider installing apps on your kid’s phones and make an example by downloading the apps on your phone as well.  Here are a few popular applications currently offered:

  1. Drive Beehive:  http://www.drivebeehive.com/
  2. AT&T Drive Mode:   http://www.att.com/gen/press-room?pid=23185
  3. Wonder:  https://joinwonder.com/
  4. Life Saver:  http://lifesaver-app.com/

Also, consider taking and encouraging your friends to take a pledge to not drive while distracted.  If we tackle distracted while driving now and make roadway safety important for our youth, we can all affect future generations’ driving behaviors.

Finally, consider contacting your local, state, and national representatives.  Tell them you want to see more state and federal funding to end distracted driving.  Get involved with groups like End Distracted Driving or People Against Distracted Driving.  The more educated and engaged we all can become on these issues, the safer our Missouri roads will be for everyone.

Don’t hesitate to get in touch with The Law Office of Mike Campbell if you have any further questions. I’m Mike Campbell, Columbia, MO personal injury lawyer, and I’m dedicated to helping Missouri residents stay safe today and every day. Feel free to take a look at my earlier blogs on driver safety or check out my YouTube channel for more great tips and discussion points.

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