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Distracted Driving Awareness Month: One text or call could wreck it all

Statistics and safe driving tips your teens can learn in April to keep them safe and alive

Last week, an Ann Arbor mother of four was killed in a car accident. The news reports allege she may have been texting while driving. If so, this loss would be just the latest due to people texting while driving and causing terrible car accidents.

In this case, the driver was supposedly texting while driving and began to cross the center line into oncoming traffic. She then swerved, lost control of the car and hit a telephone pole. Her vehicle came to rest upside down in a field and she was pronounced dead at the scene, according to Derrick Jackson, a Washtenaw County Sherriff’s Office spokesman.

Any car accident death is tragic. But what makes crashes from distracted driving all the more tragic is that they are absolutely preventable.

April is Distracted Driving Awareness Month. Throughout the month, our accident attorneys are going to be writing about distracted driving, sharing safe driving tips to prevent it, and sharing some powerful stories of serious personal injury and death that our own lawyers have witnessed. Brandon Hewitt, an excellent lawyer in our pre-lawsuit unit, will be talking to local schools in Grand Rapids and Metro Detroit about the dangers of distracted driving as part of a national campaign.

We feel that talking about this subject and getting others to talk about it – especially younger drivers who don’t always make good driving decisions -is an important start to prevent more terrible crashes like the one that killed that mother of four in Ann Arbor. Talking in schools and educating teen drivers, who are most at risk for distracted driving crashes, may hopefully save lives.

Distracted driving statistics

It’s called distracted driving for a reason. Distracted driving happens when a driver diverts his or her attention away from the task of driving a car and becomes distracted with another activity instead. Distractions can be nearly anything, such as electronic distractions and car navigation systems, cell phones and iPads, and eating or applying makeup. Having passengers in the car and talking with a friend can be a distraction.

In my own experiences as a car accident attorney, I’ve found cell phones to be the biggest culprit. The lawyers in my office now regularly subpoena cell phone records to see if someone was talking or texting at the time of the crash.

The science is very clear: you just can’t do two things at once safely while driving behind the wheel.
Take a look at some recent distracted driving statistics:

o So far this year in the U.S., there have been an estimated 307,753 car accidents involving drivers using cell phones and texting (National Safety Council: Cell Phone Crash Estimate Model).

o In 2009 distracted driving claimed 5,474 lives and led to 448,000 injuries (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).

o Drivers who use hand-held devices while driving are four times as likely to get into crashes serious enough to injure themselves or others (NHTSA).

o Younger, inexperienced drivers under 20 years old have the highest proportion of distraction-related fatal crashes (NHTSA)

We all have a personal responsibility to prevent distracted driving

Texting while driving is illegal in Michigan. And Michigan now has graduated drivers licensing laws (GDL) for teens. Our accident attorneys believe enforcement and further bans, like using a cell phone while driving, need to be instituted to further prevent distracted driving car accidents and deaths.

Still, legislation is not the solution. Common sense and personal responsibility is.

There is now so much technology, and we can’t legislate good judgment. But with more portable technology now than ever, the risks of distracted driving continues to rise, and car accidents caused by driver distractions have risen to unprecedented numbers. People today expect instant, real-time information at all hours, even when behind the wheel. Bad idea.

The reality is that these are entirely preventable crashes. It’s up to each and every one of us to make sure we pay attention to the road. The risks are simply too high.

We send our sincerest condolences to the family and loved ones of the young mother, Charmaine Daugherty, who was killed last week in Ann Arbor.

Steven Gursten is an accident attorney and head of Michigan Auto Law. He president of the Motor Vehicle Trial Lawyers Association. Steve frequently writes and speaks on distracted driving and Michigan auto laws, and is available for comment.

– Photo courtesy of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration

Related Information:

Texting while driving – Frequently asked questions

Troy, Michigan distracted driving law

Car accident checklists

Michigan Auto Law exclusively handles car accident, truck accident and motorcycle accident cases throughout the entire state of Michigan. We have offices in Farmington Hills, Sterling Heights, Ann Arbor, Grand Rapids and Detroit. Call (800) 777-0028 or to speak with one of our Michigan accident attorneys

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