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LEGAL MATTERS: Distracted Driving Is About More Than Texting

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

 

Texting may be the dominant source of distraction for drivers, but it's not the only one. Photo: OregonDOT/flickr.

It’s Saturday morning and the Dunkin’ Donuts coffee is in the cupholder next to the driver’s seat. Your teenage daughter is in the passenger seat next to you and you can’t wait to pop the top and start guzzling caffeine as you drive to your morning errands. You reach for the cup and suddenly think of the teen driver next to you. You put it back down.

Texting while driving is not the only way we are distracted while driving. Eating, putting on makeup, reaching for something in the passenger seat, programming the radio or the GPS... all these are ways drivers lose their focus on the road.

"What were you doing at the time of the collision?"

As trial lawyers, we know this all too well. Along with requesting cell phone records at the time of the crash, we routinely ask the question, "What were you doing at the time of the collision?" For those of us who have been driving for more than 30 years, we tend to think we can handle driving while distracted -- that accidents will never happen to us. We’re wrong – and worse yet, we’re also setting a bad example for our kids.

Just how prevalent are crashes caused by distracted driving? The Governors’ Highway Safety Association (GHSA) recently examined more than 350 studies about distracted driving and found that distracted driving is the likely cause of 15 to 25 percent of all U.S. motor vehicle crashes. The report, Distracted Driving: What Research Shows and What States Can Do, considered research from more than 350 scientific papers published between 2000 and 2011.

The high price of distraction

Just ask Joel Feldman, a Philadelphia trial lawyer who says he used to drive distracted with his kids in the car all time until he tragically lost his daughter when she was killed by a distracted driver while crossing the street.

Now the head of The Casey Feldman Foundation, Feldman has started EndDD.org’s Student Awareness Initiative program to teach young and new drivers how easy it is to become distracted while driving and just how deadly it can be. The program is unique from other programs in that it was designed with the help of behavioral scientists at the Center for Injury Research and Prevention (CIRP) at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. The interactive presentation uses video, graphics and role-play exercises.

In Rhode Island, volunteer attorneys from the Rhode Island Association for Justice (RIAJ), of which we are both members, will be going into high schools around the state to teach kids not only about the dangers of distracted driving but what do to if they are riding in a car with someone who is driving distracted.

There’s no excuse for driving while distracted – the consequences are life altering for us, the one’s we love and those who become the unwitting victims of our momentary lapse. If you’re interested in RIAJ going to your child’s school to empower your children to become safer drivers and safe passengers, visit www.riaj.org.

To learn more about the Casey Foundation, watch the video, here.

The foregoing is offered for informational purposes only and is not legal advice nor does it create an attorney-client relationship.

Susan G. Pegden is a litigation associate with the Law Firm of Hamel, Waxler, Allen & Collins in Providence.  She is admitted to practice in Rhode Island and Massachusetts and is a member of the Board of Governors of the Rhode Island Association of Justice (RIAJ) and a member of the Rhode Island Women’s Bar Association.

Sean P. Feeney is a partner with the Law Firm of Hamel, Waxler, Allen & Collins. He is admitted to practice in Rhode Island, Illinois and Wisconsin. Mr. Feeney is a former special counsel to the City of Providence, military prosecutor with the United States Marine Corps and Special Assistant United States Attorney for the Central District of California.

 

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