Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Health Care and Texting while Driving

There are actually around 11 million accidents on US roads every year, due to all causes. Please drive carefully -- and make sure you're properly protected with good auto insurance.

In the time it takes you to read this brief note, between 5 and 10 autos will crash because the driver was using a cell phone, according to Tri-Star Insurance in Plano, Texas. It's not just the physical act of using your hands to take a call or, even worse, texting, that's to blame. It's also the fact that drivers become distracted when they focus on the phone.

That's why, increasingly, research shows that even using a hands-free device doesn't significantly reduce the chances of an accident. Just because it's legal to use a hands-free device doesn’t mean it's safe. And you don’t need more evidence than statistics showing that cell-related accidents are going up, not down.

A common distraction problem is to miss traffic signals or fail to spot other road hazards, like a cyclist or an overtaking vehicle. One report suggests a cell phone can impair a driver's ability as much as being drunk. Sorry to have to tell you, there's only one sure way to avoid this problem and that is to put your cell phone out of reach -- either switching it off or putting it in the glove compartment (or even the trunk if you're otherwise likely to be tempted).

You might find this tough to do at first. You need to develop the habit. As it happens, April is Distracted Driving Awareness Month, a campaign organized by the National Safety Council (www.nsc.org), so this would be a great time to take the pledge and drive cell-free and encourage others to do the same.

If you have teenagers in your orbit -- through family, work or other connections -- it's even more important to get them to understand the risks they're taking. If they won't listen, get them to visit the non-profit www.cellphonesafety.org. Or tell them that 1 million crashes were caused by cell phone distraction in 2013. It's a shocking statistic you can do something about.

According to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), the popularity of mobile devices has had some unintended and even dangerous consequences--mobile communications are linked to a significant increase in distracted driving, resulting in injury and loss of life.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reported that in 2010 driver distraction was the cause of 18 percent of all fatal crashes – with 3,092 people killed – and crashes resulting in an injury – with 416,000 people wounded.

Forty percent of all American teens say they have been in a car when the driver used a cell phone in a way that put people in danger, according to a Pew survey.  The Virginia Tech Transportation Institute found that text messaging creates a crash risk 23 times worse than driving while not distracted.

Eleven percent of drivers aged 18 to 20 who were involved in an automobile accident and survived admitted they were sending or receiving texts when they crashed.

Distracted driving endangers life and property and the current levels of injury and loss are unacceptable. To stem this problem, the FCC is working with industry, safety organizations, and other government agencies, to inform and educate the public about the dangers of distracted driving and is seeking to identify and facilitate the development of innovative technologies that could reduce the incidence of distracted driving. More info is available at this site: http://www.fcc.gov/guides/texting-while-driving .

Here are some more frightening stats. Texting while driving is a growing trend, and a national epidemic, quickly becoming one of the country’s top killers. Drivers assume they can handle texting while driving and remain safe, but the numbers don’t lie.

Texting While Driving Causes:

1. 1,600,000 accidents per year – National Safety Council.
2. 330,000 injuries per year – Harvard Center for Risk Analysis Study.
3. 11 teen deaths EVERY DAY – Insurance Institute for Highway Safety Fatality Facts.
4. Nearly 25% of ALL car accidents.

Texting While Driving Is:

1. About 6 times more likely to cause an accident than driving intoxicated.
2. The same as driving after 4 beers – National Hwy Transportation Safety Administration.
3. The number one driving distraction reported by teen drivers.

Texting While Driving:

1. Is the same as driving blind for 5 seconds at a time – Virginia Tech Transportation Institute.
3. Takes place by 800,000 drivers at any given time across the country.
4. Slows your brake reaction speed by 18% – Human Factors & Ergonomics Society.
5. Leads to a 400% increase with eyes off the road.

More material on this subject can also be found at this website: http://www.textinganddrivingsafety.com/texting-and-driving-stats/ .

According to the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA), states have distracted driving laws. Some localities have additional regulations.

Hand-held Cell Phone Use: 12 states, D.C., Puerto Rico, Guam and the U.S. Virgin Islands prohibit all drivers from using hand-held cell phones while driving. Beginning in October 2013, all laws will be primary enforcement—an officer may cite a driver for using a hand-held cell phone without any other traffic offense taking place.

All Cell Phone Use: No state bans all cell phone use for all drivers, but 37 states and D.C. ban all cell phone use by novice drivers, and 20 states and D.C. prohibit it for school bus drivers.

Text Messaging: Washington was the first state to pass a texting ban in 2007. Currently, 43 states, D.C., Puerto Rico, Guam and the U.S. Virgin Islands ban text messaging for all drivers. All but 5 have primary enforcement. Of the 7 states without an all driver texting ban:

--4 prohibit text messaging by novice drivers.
--3 restrict school bus drivers from texting.

See this site for extreme details by state: http://www.ghsa.org/html/stateinfo/laws/cellphone_laws.html .

No matter what your excuse, texting while driving is dangerous. Plus, it’s illegal in many areas. Don’t do it. Looking at a text for two seconds is not worth dying for.

Until next time.

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