As a driver, one of the most important steps you can take to make your journey a safe one is also one of the simplest: Put down your phone before you start your car, and don’t look at it until you’re no longer in traffic.
Studies indicate that distracted driving, a term rarely used a decade ago, is now ranked as one of the major hazards on the road, right up there with drunk driving. For various reasons, the number of crashes involving distracted drivers is probably even greater than statistics indicate, and prohibitions against texting and other high-risk behaviors are rarely enforced. But there are common-sense steps that you can take to help protect yourself and your loved ones from increasingly common and dangerous behaviors that are driving us all to distraction.
The term “distracted driving” encompasses a range of bad habits, all of which can take your attention from the road ahead, including eating while driving, arguing with passengers, adjusting entertainment or navigation systems or climate controls, and fiddling with tobacco or vape products. The most common culprit, though, is the smart phone. Talking, texting, checking emails and social media have become such constant activities for some drivers that they believe they can do so without losing focus on their driving — despite ample evidence to the contrary.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that 1000 people a day are injured in accidents in which at least one driver was distracted. The NHTSA attributed 2841 deaths to distracted driving in 2018; but some experts believe the government’s figures are only a baseline at best, since in many instances the distractions that caused the accident may not be apparent or properly reported.
According to the Colorado Department of Transportation, distracted driving was a factor in 15,143 crashes on state roads in 2019, resulting in 4,361 injuries and 28 deaths. In a recent CDOT survey of driver behavior, an astonishing 92 percent of respondents admitted to driving distracted in the past seven days.
Texting is regarded as among the most dangerous of all distracted behaviors, largely because it demands so much attention, involving three distinct types of distraction: manual (taking hands off the wheel), visual (eyes off road), and cognitive (your mind isn’t on driving). Five seconds of texting while traveling at 55 miles per hour takes your eyes off the road for the length of an entire football field — and a lot can happen over that much time and distance. Almost all states, including Colorado, have passed laws banning texting while driving. Yet such laws are rarely enforced because it’s difficult to discern the behavior before it results in a crash.
Several months ago Denverite set out to explore Coloradans’ “massive cultural addiction” to smart phones and how that addiction influences driving behavior. A team of reporters fanned out across the city and observed hundreds of drivers on their phones at busy intersections. The report notes, “Colorado’s law was written to make texting behind the wheel a secondary offense. In practice, that means officers can only cite motorists if they see them texting or surfing the web and witness ‘careless and imprudent’ driving, as the law puts it.”
But that doesn’t mean we can’t take steps to discourage distracted driving. CDOT recommends putting your phone in “do not disturb” mode and minimizing other distractions. Select your car’s climate, entertainment and GPS settings before you embark. Have a passenger designated to respond to calls or messages while you’re on the road, or pull over if you need to check phone notifications or have a snack. In other words, avoid using your phone and especially texting while driving.
And, if you see another vehicle moving erratically or exhibiting other signs of a dangerously distracted driver, don’t hesitate to call the Colorado State Patrol at *277 to report it. But pull over before making that call.
THE CAR ACCIDENT ATTORNEYS AT FDAZAR
For more than thirty years the attorneys at Franklin D. Azar & Associates have helped thousands of injured people obtain complete and timely compensation for their losses. Our proven track record and expertise have allowed us to grow into the largest personal-injury law firm in Colorado, with offices in Denver, Aurora, Greenwood Village, Colorado Springs, and Pueblo. If you’ve been injured in a bus, car, truck, or motorcycle accident, you may be entitled to compensation. Please call the car accident attorneys at FDAzar day or night at 720-372-2824 or contact us here for a free consultation and no-obligation evaluation of your case.