Texting and driving takes the lives of thousands of people each year. In fact, in 2011, there were 3,360 distracted driving fatalities, and in 2012, there were 3,328 distracted driving fatalities. Another 421,000 people were injured in 2012 in motor vehicle accidents involving a distracted driver, which represented a nine percent increase from the estimated 387,000 people injured in 2011 as a result of distracted driving.
Unfortunately, despite stricter laws and increased public awareness about the dangers of distracted driving, a recent report from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s National Center for Statistics and Analysis indicates that drivers continue to text while driving at an alarming rate – which leaves many to ask: what can we do to deter texting and driving?
According to a new study from Washington State University, public service announcements that include strong emotional references to death may have the greatest potential to change people’s willingness to text while driving. As this article explains, researchers asked a nationally representative sample of 224 drivers between the ages of 18 and 49 to look at four print public service announcements featuring the headline “Texting While Driving: A Dangerous Combination” along with copy saying, “Please don’t text and drive.” Three of the public service announcements were altered to evoke a fear of death. For instance, one public service announcement included fatality statistics, another had a skull-and-crossbones symbol, and the third used both fatality statistics and the skull-and-crossbones symbol.
The researchers found that the three public service announcements with references to death made participants significantly more apprehensive about texting while driving, with the skull-and-crossbones symbol having the greatest impact.
Texting and driving is incredibly dangerous. According to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA), five seconds is the average time that a driver takes his or her eyes are off the road while texting, which is enough time to cover the length of a football field when traveling at 55mph. Even the simple act of reaching for the phone can be dangerous. In fact, the NHTSA says that reaching for a phone, dialing, texting and other uses of portable devices increases the risk of getting into a crash by three times.
Illinois lawmakers are taking steps to decrease distracted driving accidents, by passing more stringent distracted driving laws. Effective January 1, 2014, there is a state-wide ban on handheld cell phone use. Drivers are required to use a Bluetooth headset or speakerphone if they want to talk on the phone while driving, and drivers caught using a handheld phone (except in the case of emergencies) may be subject to a fine of at least $75.
Additionally, the penalties imposed on distracted drivers who injure or kill another motorist were also increased at the beginning of the year with distracted drivers who injure another motorist now facing penalties of up to $2,500 in fines and up to a year of jail time if convicted. Distracted drivers involved in a fatal car accident could be charged with a Class 4 felony, for which a conviction carries fines of up to $25,000 and up to three years of jail time. Moreover, distracted drivers can also be liable for money damages in a personal injury lawsuit.
At Ankin Law Office, LLC, our Chicago auto accident lawyers are dedicated to protecting the rights of the victims of distracted driving accidents. Our Illinois auto accident attorneys have vast legal knowledge regarding auto accident lawsuits, along with considerable experience representing clients in distracted driving lawsuits, which allows us to effectively advocate on behalf of our clients.
If you have been injured in an auto accident caused by distracted driving, contact one of our Chicago car accident attorneys to learn more about how we can help you seek financial recovery through a personal injury lawsuit.