Nearly every morning, as I drive my two teenagers to a local high school, I am frustrated by the screeching of tires and the near-miss car accidents in Charlotte that are due to distracted drivers. My frustration grows on those afternoons when I pass another local high school and find myself stuck in a traffic jam behind students who have crashed. In this particular location, the accidents occur almost daily, and are always the same: one student rear ends another student for one of several, predictable reasons: they are looking down at their phone, talking on the phone, following too closely, driving too fast, and even dancing in their seats.
It has been said that children learn by example. So, this year, I am resolving to pay more attention. My teens are learning how to drive, and they are closely watching my driving behavior. A recent study by AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety found that newly licensed teens were 50% more likely to crash during the first month of being licensed than they were following 2 years of driving experience. Almost 60% of the early wrecks were attributable to the same three factors: speeding, inattention, and failure to yield. So, with my teens watching, I will resolve to be on my best driving behavior.
But make no mistake, teens are not the only ones driving distracted. In fact, according to a study conducted by Harris Interactive/Health Day, most adults that drive regularly admit to engaging in distracting behaviors while driving. The term “distracted driving” usually conjures images of cell phone use, but it also includes eating, drinking, using a GPS device, and grooming, just to name a few, and it seems that almost everyone does it. According to a study published in USA Today, 86% of drivers polled said they have eaten or drank while driving, and 57% claim to do it “sometimes” or “often.” Another 41% admit to setting of changing a GPS device while driving. The American Journal of Public Health reports that traffic fatalities caused by texting an driving increased 28% from 2005 to 2008, making it particularly scary that USA Today reports that their poll found that 37% of drivers have texted while driving, 18% do it on a regular basis, and 13% surf the web while driving.
With these figures, it is not surprising that more and more often, we read about North Carolina car accidents caused by a distracted driver. And anyone can be driving distracted, including police officers. On December 14, 2011, Miami Police Officer J. Brutus drove his patrol car up a utility pole when he turned his attention away from the road as head reached across the car seat for a fallen pen. Officer Brutus’ car left the roadway and struck the tension cord of a utility pole, causing the vehicle to come to a rest against the pole at a 45 degree angle.
The car accident attorneys at Auger & Auger urge you to be mindful of your behavior behind the wheel, and that seemingly simple acts such as eating, or reaching across the seat for something, can take your eyes off the road and have unfortunate consequences.