For decades, drunk driving has been at the forefront of debate. Stricter laws have been passed across the nation leading to a decrease in drunk driving accidents. However, a new driving threat is quickly taking its place. That threat is texting while driving – and many say that it is actually more dangerous than drunk driving.
Comparing The Two: Texting While Driving Is Like Drinking 4 Beers
The impairments associated with drunk driving and texting while driving are similar, according to the National Highway & Transportation Administration (NHTSA) website, distraction.org. Both cause distraction and impaired driving that can result in following too closely, not being able to brake on time or weaving into oncoming traffic.
Drivers who are texting while behind the wheel have a 23% higher chance of causing a crash. That is equivalent to downing four beers and then getting behind the wheel. Here’s a quick look at some statistics for both:
- Drunk Driving On The Decline. According to the NHTSA 2011 Traffic Safety Facts, laws passed by all 50 states and the District of Columbia lowering the threshold of illegal driving to .08 blood alcohol content have resulted in a decrease in drunk driving fatalities. In 2002, there were 12,405 drunk driving fatalities. That number dropped to 9,296 in 2011 – a 25% decrease.
While drunk driving fatalities have been decreasing, deadly accidents involving distracted driving are increasing.
- Texting & Driving On The Rise. Distracted driving resulted in approximately 2,600 deaths in 2002. The number of distracted driving accidents increased by 22% in 2011 and resulted in 3,331 fatalities. Texting while driving is a leading cause of distracted driving. However, the NHTSA reports that texting while driving is currently responsible for approximately 1.6 million accidents every year – about 25% of all driving accidents.
The underlying danger of texting while driving is taking your eyes off the road. According to a study from the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute (VTTI) entitled The Impact of Hand-Held and Hands-Free Cell Phone Use on Driving Performance and Safety Critical Event Risk, the average texter takes their eyes off the road for 23 seconds to browse, dial and send a message — not to mention the time it takes to find the phone in the first place.
Many states have passed laws that restrict texting while driving. Eleven states prohibit all drivers from using hand held cell phones and 41 states prohibit all drivers from text messaging. While new laws continue to be passed prohibiting the practices, enforcing them is another issue altogether.
Liability For Texting While Driving Accidents: Can A Text Sender Be Liable?
It’s clear that texting while driving can have dire consequences. The legal concepts concerning the liability of those who send text messages and cause crashes are still being evolving. While anyone who causes an accident while texting and driving can be held liable for the injuries or deaths that result, a New Jersey court decision recently questioned whether a text sender might also be responsible if they sent a message knowing that the receiver was driving.
According to court records, a New Jersey man was texting while driving when his vehicle strayed out of his lane, hit a motorcycle and severely injured both motorcycle riders. The injured couple sued the driver and the person who sent him the text when the accident occurred.
While the driver was found liable, the court found that the sender was not. However, in its opinion, the court said that a text sender might be held responsible if the person knowingly distracted the driver by sending a text he or she knew would be read immediately. New Jersey has been at the forefront of texting while driving regulations – making the act punishable by up to 10 years in prison and fines up to $150,000 for anyone who causes an injury.
Even though the dangers are clear, texting while driving is an increasing hazard for motorists. If you or a family member has been involved in an accident where the other driver was talking on their cell phone or texting while driving, contact an experienced personal injury attorney to find out whether you might be entitled to compensation in the form of medical bills, lost wages, rehabilitation and physical and emotional distress.