"(Distracted driving is) anything that takes attention away from driving. It's the No. 1 contributing circumstance to all traffic crashes in both Missouri and nationwide," said Capt. Tim Hull of the Missouri State Highway Patrol.
Cell phone use contributed to nearly 2,000 car accidents in Sikeston and elsewhere throughout Missouri in 2009, according to the Missourian. The problem continues to grow: the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports a 50% increase in texting and other handheld device use while driving in 2010.
Our Cape Girardeau car accident attorneys understand that as technology continues to evolve, so will the potential distractions available in our vehicles. With no state laws governing the use of cell phones by drivers, motorists will continue to be at high risk for distracted driving accidents. That could change one day, if Rep. Carolyn McCarthy, D-N.Y., gets her way.
McCarthy has introduced legislation (H.R. 2333: The Safe Drivers Act of 2011) that would ban drivers from using a cell phone for all states across the county. Last December, in response to rising accident and fatality rates, McCarthy issued a press release calling again for the passage of a national ban. Currently, these types of laws are managed by individual states. If H.R. 2333 gains ground, the U.S. Department of Transportation would be required to set up a nationwide standard, prohibiting cell phone use while driving, according to Auto Trends Magazine.
"Driving while making a phone call, texting or using apps can be as dangerous as driving drunk, and much more common," Rep. McCarthy said. "With some basic commonsense rules that are already in place in some parts of the country, we can reduce injuries and save lives in America."
The only law that is currently in place to regulate driver distraction in Missouri, according to the Governors Highway Safety Association, is one that prohibits drivers under the age of 21 from text messaging. All other drivers are free to do as they wish behind the wheel of a motor vehicle.
Until laws are in place to regulate distracted driving habits, motorists are urged to follow these safety tips to reduce their risks of being involved in a car accident:
• Turn off your phone. At a bare minimum, switch the ringer to silent before you get behind the wheel.
• Change your voice mail message to alert callers that you are driving and you'll get back to them as soon as possible.
• Pull over. If you need to make a call or respond to a text message, find a safe place to pull off the roadway - or ask a passenger to do it for you.
• Have a plan. Review maps and directions before you start to drive. If you get lost and need some help when you are on the road, ask a passenger to help or pull over to a safe location to review the map.
• Secure your children. Keep them safe in the car and pull over to a safe location to address situations with your children in the car.
• Secure your pets. Pets can be a big distraction in the car. Make sure that they're secured properly before you're on the road.
• When you're driving, just drive. Refrain from smoking, eating, drinking, reading and any other activity that takes your mind and eyes off the road.
"Anything that distracts you from driving--I just hate for people to get hurt. I think it's important. If it gets one person not to do it, it's worth it," said Cpl. Paul Meyers, a 14-year veteran of the Highway Patrol stationed with Troop F in Jefferson City.
If you or a loved one has been involved in a car accident in Poplar Bluff, Cape Girardeau, Sikeston or elsewhere in Southeast Missouri, contact the personal injury lawyers at Aaron Sachs & Associates, P.C. for a free initial consultation.
Safe Drivers Act of 2011 Introduced to Congress: Matt Keegan, Auto Trends Magazine
Driver Electronic Device Use in 2010: NHTSA Research
Distraction.gov: Official US Government Website for Distracted DrivingAttorney meetings by appointment only