In an attempt to put a human face on the growing problem of distracted driving, the United States Department of Transportation recently introduced a safety campaign titled “Faces of Distracted Driving”. The campaign features the stories of distracted driving victims in a series of web-based, video-taped family interviews. By showcasing these stories, the DOT hopes to educate drivers on the real-life impact of distracted driving on everyday people who, like most of us, never thought it would happen to them.
Distracted driving is defined by the DOT as “any non-driving activity a person engages in that has the potential to distract him or her from the primary task of driving and increase the risk of crashing.” According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, in the U.S. in 2009 nearly 5,500 people were killed and 500,000 injured as a result of distracted driving. For crashes that year, distracted driving was to blame for 20% of reported injuries and 16% of deaths. And this number is only growing, showing an increase from 7% in 2005 to 11% in 2009 of fatalities associated with drivers who were distracted.
Cell phones are a growing cause of distracted driving, with 995 of the reported fatalities in 2009 attributable to cell phones. Cell phone use, however, is just one of the many causes of distracted driving. DOT believes that distraction leads to three potential areas of neglect: visual (watching something other than the road; manual (removing your hands from the wheel); and cognitive (focusing your mind elsewhere than on driving). Any activity that causes one or all of these areas to be neglected is considered distracted driving. Some examples of distracted driving include using an electronic device like a cell phone, MP3 player, GPS, adjusting a radio; fixing your hair or makeup; eating and drinking while driving; reading mail, maps, texts; and even talking to other passengers.
In the “Faces of Distracted Driving” campaign, the DOT highlights how these types of distracting activities have affected real people. Victims are from all walks of life, from various age groups, genders and races, and include those who lost their lives as a result of their own actions as well as those who were struck down by the actions of another. The parents and sister of Alex Brown, 17, tell the story of her life as well as the tragic story of finding her wrecked truck after she fatally crashed it while texting. Julie Davis’ daughter shares the loss of her 58-year old mother who went for a walk and was struck from behind by a distracted driver who was going 70 mph at the time. Though evidence shows the driver never even applied the brakes as a result of having looked away from the road for over 8 seconds, she merely received a fine of under $200. Elissa Schee’s daughter Margay was just thirteen when her stopped school bus was struck from behind at a bus stop by a semi-truck. She was killed when the bus caught fire. The truck driver claimed to have never seen the bus, but an investigation showed he was on a cell-phone when the crash occurred.
The Department of Transportation’s campaign is a grim but effective reminder that distracted driving is a problem that affects all of us. Even a person who is a careful driver can be affected by another’s carelessness. If you have been injured by someone you suspect has been driving distracted, contact a Illinois personal injury attorney who can assist you.
About the Author: Brooke Haley marketing associate at Millon & Peskin, Chicago workers compensation lawyer that practice in the areas of Civil Litigation, Workers’ Compensation, and Personal Injury. Millon & Peskin is a General Civil Litigation Practice with the goal of representing the interests of injured workers, throughout all applicable Courts within the State of Illinois. For more information, please visit http://www.millonpeskin.com.