Nationwide, 35,000 people died and more than 2.4 million suffered injuries in auto accidents in 2015. In the first six months of 2016, traffic deaths increased by more than 10%.
According to the National Highway and Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA), 80% of accidents and 16% of highway fatalities are caused by distracted drivers. The National Safety Council (NSC) estimates that crashes from cell phone use account for 27% of all auto accidents. In Ohio in 2015, 41% of distracted drivers in fatal crashes were texting or talking on a phone.
Texting while driving increases your chances of being in an accident by 23 times. When you are driving 55 mph, diverting your attention for five seconds (the average time it takes to read a text message) means you are driving the length of a football field without looking at the road. A crash typically occurs within three seconds after a driver is distracted.
Even with the staggering statistics, the National Safety Council found that evidence indicates that under-reporting of driver cell phone use in accidents is causing a substantial under-estimation of the extent of the public safety threat.
What Is Distracted Driving?
The NHTSA describes distracted driving as any activity that diverts a driver’s attention from the primary task of driving. The types of distractions include:
- Talking or browsing on a cell phone or smartphone
- Texting with a phone or tablet
- Talking to others in the car
- Taking care of children in the car
- Eating and drinking
- Watching a video
- Adjusting a device (radio, CD player, etc.)
- Using a navigation system
- Reading, including maps
There are three types of driving distraction:
- Visual – diverting your eyes from the road
- Manual – removing your hands from the wheel
- Cognitive – thinking about something other than driving
Any distracted driving increases the chance of being involved in a motor vehicle accident, but of all driver distractions, texting and using a phone is one of the most dangerous. It involves all three types of distraction and diverts the driver’s attention more often and for longer than other distractions.
Texting While Driving Is Illegal in Ohio and Most States
In Ohio and 45 other states, texting while driving is against the law. Only 14 states outlaw hand-held cell phone use completely. Ohio prohibits cell phone use only for drivers under the age of 18.
For Ohio drivers under 18, it is illegal to use an electronic wireless communications device for any purpose while driving. The prohibition includes any use of a cell phone or smartphone while driving. Violation is a “primary offense,” which means that law enforcement officers can pull a driver over when they observe it. Penalties include fines and suspension of driving privileges.
In Ohio, for drivers over 18, texting is a “secondary offense,” which means that you can’t be pulled over for it, but you can be charged if you are pulled over for a different offense. Conviction results in a fine. Drivers over 18 are not prohibited from using a phone for purposes other than texting.
Driver Cell Phone Use Persists Despite the Dangers
Auto fatalities nationwide have surged in the past three years, leading to a situation that NHTSA characterizes as “an immediate crisis.” Commentators are calling it an epidemic. Government agencies point to the proliferation of cell phones and smartphones as the main culprit. In surveys by AAA and Harris, 30 to 42% of people polled admit to texting while driving, despite the fact that it is illegal in most states. An NHTSA survey disclosed that 20 to 30% of drivers do not think that texting affects their driving.
The NHTSA and other organizations are stepping up their campaigns to make everyone aware of the dangers of using a phone while driving. The hope is that education about the extent of the risks will eventually begin to have a positive impact.
If You Are Injured in a Crash Involving a Distracted Driver
We can help if you have been injured or if you have suffered the loss of a family member in an accident that may have been caused by a distracted driver. Our auto accident personal injury attorneys at Robenalt Law are experienced and skillful in handling cases resulting from distracted driving. We will fight for you and make sure that you receive the compensation you and your family deserve.
Most cases are handled on a contingent fee basis under our No Fee Unless You Win policy. Your initial consultation is always free.
Robenalt Law is a Cleveland law firm representing clients throughout Ohio and in Florida. Call us at (216) 223-7535, complete our online form , or email [email protected] to schedule your free consultation.