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Chicago Drivers Should Recommit to Avoid Distraction

November 29, 2014

Most drivers know it is not safe to talk on their phones, use electronic devices or otherwise become distracted while they are operating their vehicles. Despite this knowledge, however, a personal injury lawyer knows drivers persist in engaging in these dangerous behaviors.

Unfortunately, a growing body of evidence emphasizes just how dangerous it is to drive while distracted. No studies show it is safe in any way to use electronics, even with voice-activation or voice controls. In light of an ever-increasing scholarship showing just how dangerous it is to be distracted behind the wheel, every driver should recommit to focusing on the road.

Distracted Driving Remains a Serious Problem

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) published a comprehensive status report recently entitled “Eyes on the Road: Searching for answers to the problem of distracted driving.” According to the report, using a cell phone behind the wheel reduces a driver’s reaction time, and in turn increases the risk of a collision. Inattention blindness can also occur when drivers focus their brain power on cell phones and don’t comprehend or process information from objects on the road even if they are looking at those objects.

IIHS collaborated with the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute (VTTI) to do a study on the effects of talking on or manipulating hand-held cell phones. The study did not look at texting drivers or at drivers using the Internet. The drivers were evaluated based on a naturalistic driving study. The research showed that when a driver was reaching for, dialing or answering a cell phone, the crash rate almost tripled. There was also a 17 percent greater risk of a collision when cell phone interactions like talking were included. Interacting with a cell phone was found to take up about 12 percent of driving time.

Although IIHS did confirm the dangers associated with cell phone use, some parts of the report seemed to downplay the tremendous risk for motorists. The report indicated hand-held phone use by drivers was leveling off and U.S. crash deaths have fallen sharply at the same time as more motorists have begun to text behind the wheel.

The National Safety Council responded to the IIHS report, noting a number of problems with the conclusions that were reached. IIHS researchers acknowledged limitations in the report, and the NSC affirmed these shortcomings may have made the problem of distracted driving seem less serious than it really is.

For example, IIHS reported 12 percent of crashes in 2012 involved distracted driving. However, the use of cell phones in collisions is under-reported because motorists frequently don’t admit to using a phone and because phone use is often not captured on crash reports. The report also questioned why crashes haven’t increased with rising cell phone use, and the NHTSA pointed out that this is likely because there have been many improvements in vehicle safety technology over the same period of time that phones have become more common.

It is dangerous to downplay the risk of phone use because drivers need to be aware of how dangerous it is. Recent AAA studies have even shown that hands-free devices aren’t safe. Drivers need to recognize the risk and recommit to not driving distracted.

A Chicago, IL accident attorney can help after an injury. Call Coplan + Crane at 800-394-6002 to schedule your free consultation.