Tragic Birmingham Distracted Driving Accident Highlights Risks

Sep 20, 2011 - Birmingham, Car Accidents by

Police say text messaging is at least partly to blame for a Birmingham car accident that claimed the life of a young mother and her 10-month-old son.

FOX News reported that the 18-year-old mother was texting in the minutes before her car crossed the median and slammed into a dump truck. Police responding to the crash reportedly found an unsent text message on her phone. 808843_blackberry_keypad.jpg

Recently, our Alabama personal injury attorneys noted a push by the federal government to prohibit all bus and truck drivers from using a cell phone while behind the wheel — either hand-held or hands-free.

Distracted driving continues to claim more than 5,000 lives a year, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. The Alabama Department of Public Safety reports at least six people this year have died in Alabama car accidents that involved cell phone use or text messaging.

A growing body of evidence shows hands-free cell phones are not a safe alternative; that the cognitive distraction associated with talking on a phone while driving an automobile should be outlawed altogether.

Yet no state has thus far banned hands-free devices. The Governor’s Highway Safety Association reports nine states and the District of Columbia prohibit all drivers from using hand-held phones while behind the wheel. Thirty states ban their use by young drivers. Thirty-eight states have thus far passed some form of a texting ban.

Alabama driving law only prohibits drivers under the age of 18 from using a cell phone or text messaging while driving. Individual cities have been left to do their own thing. The Times Daily reports police in Florence are attempting to enforce a texting ban passed by the city council. In all, AAA Alabama reports some 20 cities have banned texting and driving.

But police in many jurisdictions are having trouble enforcing such bans because it’s tough to prove someone was texting (illegal) as opposed to dialing a number (still legal).

The GHSA recently summarized 350 distracted driving studies and scientific papers, all produced in the last decade. “Despite all that has been written about driver distraction, there is still a lot that we do not know,” said GHSA Executive Director Barbara Harsha. “Much of the research is incomplete or contradictory. Clearly, more studies need to be done addressing both the scope of the problem and how to effectively address it.”

Among the report’s findings:

-Drivers are distracted as much as half the time.

-Motorists adapt driving style to driving conditions, becoming more alert in risky situations.

-As many as 1 in 4 accidents involve distraction.

-Texting increases your risk of an accident more than a cell phone.

The report encourages states to enact texting bans and cell phone bans for new drivers — including a ban on hands-free devices. The report also encouraged distracted driver communications programs as well as programs aimed at employers.

Additional Resources:

The NTSB Proposes Cell Phone Ban for Commercial Truck Drivers, Alabama Injury Attorneys Blog, Sept. 14, 2011.

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