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Distracted Driving

Distracted Driving

Friday, February 1st, 2013


It took place right near here on a road not unlike Route 9 through Poughkeepsie, three lanes in each direction with additional left turn lanes at the intersections.  It’s Sunday night around 8:30 and the weather is perfectly clear. The traffic is light, the road is perfectly straight and the intersection is well lit. A 38 year old man traveling about 35 miles per hour drives straight through the solid red light and slams into the side of a tractor-trailer cab that was completing its left turn on a green arrow.  The man doesn’t honk his horn, he doesn’t swerve and he doesn’t even hit his brakes.  After the impact his foot presses the pedal to the floor as the tires spin & screech for several more seconds even though the car can’t move. Finally the engine shuts down.  The air is thick with the smell of burnt rubber and smoke as the police and ambulance arrive.  Their investigation finds that the driver never even touched his brakes as he flew through that intersection and the officers conclude after carefully investigating the scene and interviewing the witnesses that distracted driving caused that crash.  That driver spends the next several weeks in the hospital.


Distracted driving contributes to up to 8,000 crashes every day according to a study by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety.  As more drivers take their cell phones into their cars, distracted driving continues to grow as a traffic safety issue.  Cell phones, however, are not the only source of concern. Texting, emailing, dialing a cell phone, eating, smoking, adjusting the radio or rubbernecking while driving can cause or at least contribute to distracted driving.  Just taking your eyes off the road ahead is enough.  The AAA Foundation concludes that drivers spend more than half their time behind the wheel engaged in some form of distracted behavior.  While most drivers agree that texting or emailing while driving is unacceptable and they support laws to penalize such behavior, more than one-third of all drivers report texting or emailing while driving.  This “do as I say, not as I do” attitude is the greatest obstacles to improving safety on our roads.


When distracted driving leads to injuries, the cases, like the one described above, often end up in court.  The judge will charge the jury with the applicable law:  “It was the duty of the drivers to operate their automobiles with reasonable care, taking into account the actual and potential dangers existing from weather, road, traffic and other conditions.  Each of them was under a duty to maintain a reasonably safe rate of speed, to have their automobiles under reasonable control; to keep a proper lookout under the circumstances then existing to see and be aware of what was in this or her view and to use reasonable care to avoid an accident.”


It is easy to see how jurors will hold the distracted driver accountable for the harm that results.  Unfortunately, money is all that can be exchanged from the harm caused- money that tries to fix what can be fixed, tries to help what can be helped and tries to make up for those things that can’t be fixed of helped.  I know of no one who would want then money if only they could have their health back, or the life of a loved one.


For our roads to be safer we all must examine our own attitudes and behaviors.  Do what we teach our children. Never text or email while driving, understand that distracted driving does not require a cell phone, and understand that safe driving requires everyone’s participation.

Category: Car Accidents, Personal Injury
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