Feds: About 1 in 5 Fatal Accidents Attributable To Cell Phones

Figures released to coincide with this week’s distracted driving summit in Washington suggest that 18% of those killed in 2009 in distracted driving car wrecks were using a cell phone. Nationwide, fatalities linked to distracted driving (which include activities other than wireless devices) actually declined by 6 percent last year. U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood insists however, that the problem is still of epidemic proportions and that the figures don’t take into account police reports that don’t document the cause, if any, of the driver’s inattention.

According to LaHood, “Drivers can lose focus by using devices such as mobile phones and portable computers, or such activities as eating, talking and personal grooming.”

According to National Highway Traffic Safety Administration data, 995 persons were killed and 24,000 were injured on the roads in 2009 owing to cell phone use. Overall distracted driving regardless of kind was responsible for 16% (about 5,500) of all traffic fatalities. The findings also indicated that the teenage cohort had the greatest proportion of distracted drivers, but it was the 30-somethings who had the most auto fatalities from cell phone use specifically.

As part of the summit, LaHood also announced a new rulemaking to prohibit commercial truck drivers from texting while transporting hazardous materials. Commercial truckers are already generally prohibited from texting on the job.

As we noted in a previous blog entry, the cell phone distracts the driver regardless of the age or experience level;  if the driver is distracted, problems occur. Eights states have banned any wireless use other than hands-free operation but Indiana is not one of them.  So stay off the cell phone while driving.  Your family wants you home safe, and all the others human beings on the road want to get home safe to their families too.

Indianapolis Police Experimenting With License Plate Scanners

The Indianapolis Metropolitan Police have deployed new technology for finding car thieves, motorists leaving the scene of a traffic accident, and other wanted persons: License plate scanning.

According to IndyStar.com, the technology is a cruiser-mounted camera  that can take a picture of a license plate and then automatically run it through a crime database. The technology will then alert the officer in the patrol car if owner of the plate is wanted on an outstanding warrant or if a vehicle in question itself has been reported stolen. The technology apparently can scan multiple license plates in all directions for hits at the same time as the squad officer drives through an area.

So far, only five patrol cars have been outfitted with the expensive cameras but the officials hope to get federal funding for more. Each camera is mounted either on the bar that holds the overhead lights or on the trunk of the police car. The technology is already is in Cincinnati and Detroit.

The technology could also in some circumstances wind up cutting down on high-speed police chases, which can occur after hit-and-run highway accidents,  and which sometimes can unfortunately result in follow-up injuries to officers and other citizens.

Defensive Driving Tips For the Fall/Winter

We’ve blogged previously about the shared responsibility for defensive driving on Indiana roads. Defensive driving is essentially operating your car  in a manner that anticipates the actions, reactions, and mistakes of others sharing the road with you.

Although we have no control over the behavior of other motorists, defensive driving is a way to make a good faith effort to avoid accidents. if we all work together, the roads will be safer, with the less likelihood of a vehicle accident.

Courtesy of the Indiana State Police, here are a few tips for defensive driving especially as summer ends and we head into the adverse weather season:

  • wear your safety belt at all times
  • don’t tailgate–always leave a safety cushion of at least two car lengths per 10 mph that you are traveling
  • when braking on ice, apply gentle but firm pressure without locking brakes
  • watch for pedestrians–poor visibility and slippery conditions provide hazardous walkways and crossing
  • anticipate the actions of others
  • to regain control during a skid, release brakes and gently steer the car in the direction of the skid.

The summer does seem to fly by, doesn’t it? The ISP also says that the fall is a good time to refill your antifreeze, check your brakes and battery, replace wiper blades, and refill washer fluid if necessary.

If you have been injured in a road accident despite your best efforts at defensive driving, contact the Indiana personal injury lawyers at Young and Young in Indianapolis. We stand ready to help with 55 years of experience.

Two Percent Increase in Indiana DUI-Related Deaths

Some good news and bad news from statistics released by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) in Washington. In 2009, traffic accident fatalities decreased by 15 percent in Indiana. Unfortunately, reversing a recent trend, there was an 1.9 uptick in drunk-driving-related deaths in the state; this translates to 210 fatalities vs. 206 in 2008.

On a national basis, some additional positive findings in the data:  traffic deaths apparently fell about 10 percent to a 60-year low while U.S. alcohol-related fatalities fell by about 7 percent. According to the NHTSA, car crashes are the leading cause of death for those between the ages of 3 and 34. An NHTSA official suggested that the improved safety numbers are a reflection of increased seat belt enforcement and use along with anti-drunk driving campaigns.

If you or a loved one have been seriously hurt in a traffic accident owing to the actions of a drunk driver, please contact the Indiana personal injury lawyers at Young and Young in Indianapolis to obtain full information about your legal rights to recover money damages in civil court. With 55 years of experience, we stand ready and able to help you make the person who caused the harm to fully compensate you for that harm. Call us, toll free, at 1-888-639-5161 for a no-obligation consultation.

Cell phone use is an increasingly common cause of accidents

As Indiana Injury Attorneys, practicing out of our Indianapolis offices, we are very concerned about the use of cell phones and driving.  Cell phone use is an increasingly common cause of accidents by young drivers.  However, this problem is not just limited to the young.  As the cell phone distracts the driver, it matters not their age or experience level, if the driver is distracted, problems occur.  Anecdotally, I ride my bike to work several days a week.  My route takes me six miles along roads that have only marginal traffic flow.  I do this on purpose so as to not interfere with drivers, and to not place myself in danger from those drivers.  From the perspective of my bike, I see a lot of driver mistakes being made.  Most, fortunately have not ended in collisions, but some have.  Of all the mistakes I have seen, most of the drivers are talking on a cell phone.  In fact, that is so common, I am now surprised when I see a mistake and the driver is not talking on cell phone.

Newer cars and phones have blue tooth accessibility.  If the car does not have Bluetooth, an ear piece can be used.  Is this use of a cell phone safer while driving? A University of Utah study demonstrated that “[b]oth handheld and hands-free cell phones impaired driving, with no significant difference in the degree of impairment.” Reference the University of Utah News Center, “Drivers On Cell Phones Are As Bad As Drunks”, (2006), www.unews.utah.edu/p/?r=062206-1.    The study found that drivers on cell phones are slower to engage the brakes, were less inclined to maintain proper following distances, and were more likely to crash.   The National Safety Council issued a white paper in 2010 indicates that talking on a cell phone, whether handheld or hands-free, increased the risk of accident four fold.

As Indianapolis Accident and Injury Attorneys working all over the State of Indiana for Hoosiers seriously injured by negligent drivers, we are very concerned about the dangers that cell phone use while driving creates.  We have seen, firsthand, Hoosiers dealing with spinal cord injury, paralysis, broken bones, brain injury, amputations, all because the driver was distracted by cell phone use.  The Utah study likened the distractions caused by cell phone use to a drunk driver causing a drunk driving accident with a blood alcohol level of .08, the legal limit from driving while intoxicated.

Be careful out there.  Get off that cell phone while driving.  Your child wants you home safe, and all the others human beings on the road want to get home safe to their families.

Questions Raised About Effectiveness Of Driver’s Ed

This blog has previously underscored the risks posed by inexperienced teen drivers who sometimes have false bravado; they can pose road accident danger to themselves and other motorists and passengers.  With this in mind, the default presumption is that auto safety classes for new drivers seem like they would cut down on the number of traffic accidents. According to IndyStar.com, however, some state officials have concluded that driver’s ed paradoxically may be a waste of time:

Indiana lawmakers say the state’s driver education program isn’t working, citing a fractured system administered by three separate agencies and statistics that put the program’s usefulness in doubt.

Public affairs director Sarah Meyer of the Indiana Bureau of Motor Vehicles  told a group of state lawmakers last week that a study of current drivers under 18 showed those who took driver’s education had nearly four times the crashes that those who didn’t take the classes had.

A consolidation of the three-decades-0ld program in one agency with a uniform curriculum may be in the works–assuming Indiana elected officials can be convinced that driver’s ed in general is still worthwhile in the first place. Under current Indiana law, teens who take driver’s ed can get their licenses at age 16-1/2 while those don’t must wait until they are age 16 and nine months. It could be that the three-month window allows for a head-start on the statistical possibility of getting into a highway accident.

For drivers of all ages, please see our previous blog entries that provide some safe driving tips, including the most recent ones suggested by Allstate. As always, the Indiana personal injury lawyers at Young and Young strongly recommend that you should drive defensively and with a high degree of alertness at all times.

Insurer Ranks American Cities For Roadway Safety

To facilitate what it calls an ongoing dialogue on safe driving, Allstate Insurance Co. recently released its annual America’s Best Drivers Report identifying the safest U.S. cities for motorists.

The report compiles collision-related property damage claims the insurer received from insured drivers in about 200 of America’s largest cities. Based on this data, Ft. Collins, Colorado was determined to be America’s safest city; Indianapolis was 44th on the list, so there appears to be some room for improvement in Hoosier driving habits. Rounding out the top five cities were Chattanooga, Boise, Colorado Springs, and Knoxville. Our nation’s capital was ranked as the worst city for driving safety on this list.

According to an Allstate official, “Human error is the biggest cause of accidents. It is vital for us to educate drivers across the country on the importance of being tolerant and attentive behind the wheel.”

The company has some general safe driving tips that may help to avoid a road accident regardless of what state or city in which you might reside:  stay alert and minimize distractions like cell phones, maintain awareness of road conditions especially in bad weather, don’t tailgate, avoid being either a perpetrator or victim of road rage, and service your car regularly.

Roadway Safety Over Labor Day And Every Day

Many Hoosiers will be sharing the roads with other travelers during the Labor Day holiday as the long weekend marks the unofficial end of summer. Indiana State Police will deploy extra patrols as part of the federally funded Operation CARE (Combined Accident Reduction Effort).  

Troopers will specifically look for motorists who speed, follow too closely, make unsafe lane changes, drive aggressively, and fail to buckle up or to use seat restraints for young children.  Patrol units will also be on the road looking for violations by commercial trucks drivers.

Another reason to stay vigilant behind the wheel and drive defensively: construction projects will continue to operate during the holiday weekend in Indianapolis and surrounding areas.

Here are some additional safety tips from the ISP that will allow you to do you part in minimizing the possibility of a road accident:

  • Make sure you are well rested; a fatigued driver is a dangerous driver
  • Avoid tailgating; increase your following distance between vehicles
  • Buckle-up
  • Let family know your route of travel and have your cell phone charged
  • Avoid drinking alcohol and driving

The accident attorneys at the Indiana personal injury firm of Young and Young in Indianapolis wish everyone a safe and happy holiday weekend.

Teen Driver Loses Control While Reaching For Cell Phone

Local media reports that a Brazil, Indiana, teenager was injured in a one-car traffic accident on State Road 46 near Bowling Green yesterday morning.  The driver apparently became distracted while reaching for a cell phone, lost control, and struck an embankment and then a culvert.  First responders extricated her from the vehicle; the teen was then transported to the hospital and later released. Fortunately for the driver, the injuries (lacerations, contusions, and chest pain) do not appear to be serious.

We’ve previously blogged that cell phones in cars can be the perfect storm for inexperienced and sometimes reckless teenager drivers who have a tendency to wind up in a car wreck. In fact, cell phone use and texting is illegal in Indiana for drivers below age 18.  In this an instance, it should be noted that the driver was in danger by merely looking for the phone and wasn’t even using it. As we’ve pointed out, defensive driving means being alert behind the wheel at all times and staying away from wireless devices. Distracted driving can be a huge risk factor in a fatal accident.

The Indiana State Police reminds motorists of all ages that cell phone use while driving is inherently dangerous and should only be used in emergency situations. Roadway safety for the entire family is something to keep in mind as we approach the long Labor Day weekend.

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