Articles Tagged with texting while driving

PC Magazine Oprah Winfrey has been urging her viewers to promise not to text or make telephone calls while driving.   Last Friday she dedicated her show to the subject.

Some 23 states, including Tennessee, have laws banning texting while driving.  Eight other states have partial bans on texting while driving.  This chart summarizes the law of those states.

A July 2009 study by the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute concluded that texting while driving increases the risk of a crash by 20 times.   A recent University of Utah study reached a similar result.  The Secretary of Transportation has testified that distracted drivers caused the death of nearly 6000 people in 2008.

Truck drivers who text while on the road are now violating federal law.  On  January 26, 2010, the federal  Transportation Department  said  it is prohibiting truck and bus drivers from sending text messages on hand-held devices while operating commercial vehicles.

Tennessee banned texting while driving effective July 1, 2009.  

The Transportation Department said that "FMCSA research shows that drivers who send and receive text messages take their eyes off the road for an average of 4.6 seconds out of every 6 seconds while texting.  At 55 miles per hour, this means that the driver is traveling the length of a football field, including the end zones, without looking at the road.  Drivers who text while driving are more than 20 times more likely to get in an accident than non-distracted drivers."

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has set up a website called "Distraction.Gov."

The website reveals some interesting statistics:

  • In 2008, there were a total of 34,017 fatal crashes in which 37,261 individuals were killed.
  • In 2008, 5,870 people were killed in crashes involving driver distraction (16% of total fatalities).
  • The proportion of drivers reportedly distracted at the time of the fatal crashes has increased from 8 percent in 2004 to 11 percent in 2008.
  • The under-20 age group had the highest proportion of distracted drivers involved in fatal crashes (16%). The age group with the next greatest proportion of distracted drivers was the 20- to-29-year-old age group (12%).
  • Motorcyclists and drivers of light trucks had the greatest percentage of total drivers reported as distracted at the time of the fatal crashes (12%).
  • An estimated 21 percent of 1,630,000 injury crashes were reported to have involved distracted driving.
  • Nationwide, those drivers observed visibly manipulating hand-held electronic devices increased from 0.7 percent to 1.0 percent.
  • Some 1.7 percent of drivers 16 to 24 years old were observed visibly manipulating hand-held electronic devices, up from 1.0 percent the previous year.
  • More drivers in Western States were observed manipulating hand-held electronic devices (2.1%) than in the other regions of the country (from 0.4% in the Northeast to 0.8% in the Midwest).
  • The use of hand-held devices increased the most in the West, from 0.6 percent in 2007 to 2.1 percent in 2008.
  • The observed use rate of hand-held electronic devices was higher among females (1.2%) than among males (0.8%).

 The site also contains a list of states which ban driving while using cell phones or while texting.

The National Safety Counsel  announced yesterday that it estimates at least 28% of all traffic crashes – or at least 1.6 million crashes each year – are caused by drivers using cell phones and texting.

From the organization’s press release:

The estimate of 25% of all crashes — or 1.4 million crashes — caused by cell phone use was derived from NHTSA data showing 11% of drivers at any one time are using cell phones and from peer-reviewed research reporting cell phone use increases crash risk by four times. The estimate of an additional minimum 3% of crashes — or 200,000 crashes — caused by texting was derived by NHTSA data showing 1% of drivers at any one time are manipulating their device in ways that include texting and from research reporting texting increases crash risk by 8 times. Using the highest risk for texting reported by research of 23 times results in a maximum of 1 million crashes due to texting; still less than the 1.4 million crashes caused by other cell phone use. 

The United States Department of Transportation has adopted the Motorcoach Safety Action Plan following an analysis of safety data.  DOT has identified seven priority action items that will have the greatest impact on reducing motorcoach crashes, fatalities and injuries.  The items include the following:

  1. Rulemaking concerning electronic on-board recording devices to monitor drivers’ duty hours and manage fatigue.
  2. Rulemaking to prohibit cell phones for drivers.
  3. Rulemaking to require seatbelts.
  4. Development of roof crush performance requirements.
  5. Study stability control systems for motorcoaches.
  6. Enhance oversight of carriers.
  7. Establish minimum knowledge requirements for companies who seek to transport passengers.

Read the entire report here.

This is the sixth in a series of posts concerning changes in Tennessee statutory law that I believe to be of interest to tort lawyers.  For more changes click on the Legislation 2009 category of this blog.

Public Chapter 201 prohibits, subject to certain exceptions,  the reading or sending of text messages while operating a motor vehicle and while the vehicle is in motion.

Here are the key provisions of the new law:

Texting while driving is now illegal in Tennessee, and a study from the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute reaffirms why the law is necessary.

For truck drivers, the risk of a crash or near-crash event increases by a 23.2 times as compared with non-distracted driving.

Read the entire study here.