The U.S. Department of Transportation has launched its first-ever nationwide campaign and enforcement effort as part of April’s Distracted Driving Awareness Month.
The Detroit News reports the “U Drive. U Text. U Pay” campaign ran from April 7-15, coinciding with enforcement crackdowns in states with distracted driving bans. Michigan law prohibits drivers from texting; dialing or answering a phone by pushing more than one button; or reaching for or using an electronic device while not being properly seated or belted. Violators face a $100 fine for first offense and a $200 fine for second or subsequent offenses. Cell-phone use by drivers is not banned under Michigan law, although a number of municipalities have instituted bans by local ordinance, according to the Michigan Highway Patrol.
While the law tries to address the shortcomings of having a texting ban while permitting cell-phone use, enforcement is difficult at best in states with only a texting ban.
Distracted driving accident lawyers in Detroit know the issue has come to the forefront of personal injury law in just a few short years. In many cases, authorities are still trying to quantify the problem. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports 3,328 motorists were killed and more than 421,000 were injured in traffic collisions involving a distracted driver in 2012, while the National Safety Council reports 26 percent of the nation’s more than 2 million annual car accidents can be blamed on the use of cell phones.
In fact, the agency says there is a motor-vehicle accident blamed on cell phone use every 30 seconds in the United States, resulting in some 300,000 collisions in the first four months of 2014.
And, while smartphones have quickly shifted the focus to the dangers of driving while texting, e-mailing, web surfing or posting to social media, they are far from the only concern when it comes to the risks of distracted driving. Eat, grooming, applying makeup, using in-car electronics and talking to passengers can all result in a driver being dangerously distracted.
Perhaps most alarmingly, the AAA Foundation for Highway Safety reports an autumn survey found drivers less worried about potential dangers on the road, even as the number of fatal accidents has increased with the economic recovery. Apathy is no recipe for safety and yet one-fourth of drivers admitted to texting while driving in the last month, despite the fact that more than 80 percent of those surveyed identifying texting while driving as completely unacceptable behavior. Just 68 percent said drinking and driving was a very serious threat in 2012, compared to 90 percent in 2009.
Meanwhile, the NHTSA reports more than 2.3 million people were injured and 34,000 killed in traffic collisions in 2012 – a 5.3 percent increase compared to 2011.
With graduation and the start of summer break just around the corner, parents need to make sure the message reaches our youngest drivers. Drunk driving, text messaging and teens who ride with too many passengers in the vehicle are leading causes of distracted driving accidents involving young motorists.