Dec 31

The Most Dangerous Habit: Distracted Driving

by Tate Law Offices, P.C.Distracted Driving

On average a driver who sends text messages while driving takes their eyes off the road for 5 seconds. A automobile travelling at 60 miles per hour will more than cover the distance of football field in 5 seconds. And, a driver distracted by his or her phone is 23% more likely to be involved in an accident. (2009, VTTI)

Often referred to as TWD, texting while driving, is by all indications the new drunk driving. And, while drunk driving among teens has decreased substantially over the past 5 years, the number of serious accidents involving teen drivers has not. The reason is simple: cell phones and modern day sensory bombardment are increasing distraction levels and making up for the drunk driving accident decline. Some might say it’s a trading of vices. 49% of drivers with cell phones under the age of 35 send or read text messages while driving. (2011, Harris Poll)

If this doesn’t make you begin to doubt your safety on the road, there is little else that so clearly shows how dangerous driving an automobile is for anyone. It is perhaps the most dangerous activity the majority of motorists and passengers across the planet engage in on a daily basis. And, the dangers seem to be increasing as more distractions find ways into our activity-packed lives. In 2009, Webster’s Dictionary chose “distracted driving” as “Word of the Year 2009″.

How can you break the TWD habit and more generally reduce distractions while driving? For many, a perhaps-more- important question is how do you insure that teen drivers or employees are not being distracted by a phone while driving. Below are some ideas followed by specific details about some of the options.

  1. Try putting an application on the phone that limits or prohibits the ability to text or use the phone while driving. There are also applications that allow you to perform the same functions as you would by texting, but buy using mechanisms such as voice recognition to create the text message. These apps are more or less partial solutions in that they only help you to keep your eyes on the road, but still provide a distraction. It is for this reason that one may wish to go with a more-stark solution.

Parents also have options as far as apps go. There are phone applications that allow anyone to track whether or not a phone is being used while in motion. These apps typically send an alert to the designated recipients, namely parents, when the phone is known to be in use while driving or in motion. Later in this article you will find a table of available applications, as well as the pros and cons of using software as a solution.

  1. Parents and employers might also consider hardware-software hybrid solution. These include: cell phone signal jammers or jamming devices, signal or use detectors, and other varied hardware sensors. These interoperate in some manner through GPS, the Internet, the phone itself or independent use of 3G is yet another possible communication channel. And, most of these communications require a layer of software at some point along the way. These are typically expensive but fairly effective means of stopping or at least curbing TWD and other distracting phone activity. But, the use of such devices is often limited to one vehicle as these devices are usually installed in at least a semi permanent manner and most are tamper-proof.
  2. Put the phone in the trunk. This is perhaps the most elegant solution of all and one that speaks for itself. Alternatives include placing the phone out of reach and turning off the sound or vibration for incoming messages or calls. The out-of-reach part of the alternative is the key component in this case. If the phone can be accessed while driving the temptation remains and the likelihood of breaking your rule is much higher.
  3. Designate a texter, much like a designated driver.
  4. Know the law: understanding what is legal and what is not may help some to better control their use of cell phones while driving. If it’s illegal and people don’t realize this, it will certainly affect behavior when awareness is found.

Localities have additional regulations, such as city-based school zone restrictions. So, many laws that may affect you are not included here. You must know the law at the local level. And, ignorance is no excuse for violating any laws that apply to cell phone use while driving in your locale.

For an outline of state laws see the information below.

  1. Have teens or employees provide a written and recorded statement expressing that they understand the dangers of TWD and driving distractions. In such a statement, they will be required to read aloud various sobering statistics related to the dangers. Or, offer teens and employees incentives for such a commitment, such as cash rewards, gift cards or something they value.

Details on Software Designed to Limit Phone Use While Driving

Textecution – www.Textecution.com

$29.99 one-time price

  • Android
  • Cuts off texting ability if moving faster than 10 miles per hour
  • May request an override for passengers
  • Must be allowed by a Textecution “administrator,” such as a parent
  • Removal attempts for the app will alert administrator.

tXtBlocker – tXtBlocker.com

$6.99 per month

  • Works on most smart phones
  • Customize the locations and times
  • Blocks texting during specific driving times and locations.

AT&T DriveMode

Free

  • iPhone, Android and BlackBerry
  • Automatic customized incoming texts replies
  • Disables outbound and calls
  • Blocks Web surfing
  • Need to manually enable the app before driving.

DriveSafe.ly – DriveSafe.ly

$3.99 per month | $13.95 per year

  • Real-time reading of text messages and emails audibly
  • Reads in a male or female voice – determined by the sex of the sender
  • Shortcuts are available for common expressions such as OMG or IMHO
  • Sends autoresponders.

T-Mobile’s Drive First

$4.99 per month | Free in limited capacity

  • Android – select few phones
  • Detects when user is driving
  • Sends incoming calls directly into voicemail
  • Prevents access to text
  • Parental notifiers sent when override detected
  • Override + 911.

Sprint’s Drive Safe – https://drivefirst.sprint.com/

$2 per month

  • Android (other versions coming soon)
  • Prevents texts, voice calls, and distractions
  • Activates when motion is detected
  • Override in emergencies.

Cons of the Software Method to Curb Distracted Driving

  • Does not completely do away with the distractions a phone may present. The best one can hope for is a limiting of phone distraction.
  • Many of the better solutions are not free.
  • Much of the available software is limited to one platform, such as Android.
  • Some software can be disabled without much effort.
  • Automated initiation of software is not a feature on all applications.

Parents and employers should not see any potential solution as a 100% solution. Education is the best compliment to any option. Incentives are not a bad idea either. And, having your teen or employee sign and verbalize a commitment to avoiding distractions while driving is apt to help in many cases. As a parent, your example is best rendered by following your own rules. If you set a double standard, you can expect that your example with become the standard.

Overview of US State Laws Pertaining to Texting and Phone Use While Driving

  • 10 states including New Jersey, California, West Virginia, Connecticut, New York, Oregon, Washington, Delaware, Maryland and Nevada prohibit all drivers from using handheld cell phones while driving. The District of Columbia, Guam and the Virgin Islands have enacted the same restrictions. The key here is the “handheld”. One can use a speaker and microphone as long as his hands are free. Except for Maryland and West Virginia (until July 2013), all laws are primary enforcement—an officer may cite a driver for using a handheld cell phone without any other traffic offense taking place.
  • There’s not a single state in the US that currently (10-27-2012) bans all cell phone use (meaning speaker-microphone usage and other usages) for all drivers, but many prohibit use by certain types drivers or in certain contexts.
  • 32 states and the District of Columbia prohibit all cell phone use by inexperienced or novice drivers while driving.
  • Bus drivers for schools in 19 states and the District of Columbia are prohibited from cell phone use when carrying passengers. 3 states specifically restrict school bus drivers from texting. Texas is one of those states, where this is a primary law. The same restriction applies to novice drivers in Texas. Texas has banned all hand-held use and texting in school zones by all drivers. But, hands-free phone use is not prohibited in school zones.
  • 39 states, the District of Columbia, Guam and the Virgin Islands prohibit text messaging for all drivers. All but 4 have primary enforcement. An additional 5 states prohibit text messaging by novice drivers.
  • Crash Data Collection: Many states include a category for cell phone/electronic equipment/ gadget distraction on forms used by police to report accidents. Proposed federal legislation would require states to collect this data and in doing so adhere to Model Minimum Uniform Crash Criteria guidelines to qualify for certain federal funding. See: www.mmucc.us.
  • Preemption Laws: Some states – such as Florida, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Nevada, Pennsylvania, and Oklahoma – prohibit locales, such as cities from enacting phone-distraction laws.
    (source of state law information: www.distraction.gov, 2012 )

Other Resources

This article was written to help educate the public on a serious issue which costs many lives, causes many injuries and hardships. Tate Law Offices is a law firm with a staff of seasoned personal injury lawyers serving Texas. We were voted as one of the best personal injury law firms in DFW by D Magazine. Our law firm has over 75 years of combined experience with auto accidents and injuries sustained while in a motor vehicle, whether truck, car, motorcycle, boat or other form of transportation. We also broadly represent injury victims who are involved in a variety of accidents, including work accidents, wrongful death accidents, product defects and other cases where our clients have suffered due to the negligence of others. We have offices in Dallas, Fort Worth and Houston. We work throughout the state of Texas to represent injured parties in order to help recover losses sustained in accidents. You are encouraged to contact us regarding injury cases 24/7 by phone at 888-563-4536, by email or chat located on this site’s contact page. Visit the Tate Law Offices contact page now.