PORTLAND, OR, January 28, 2014 /24-7PressRelease/
-- That stats are the stats, and if you've been paying attention, you probably understand the picture they portray. The statistics on distracted driving portray one of the most serious safety issues on our nation's roads today. In fact, they reflect the biggest emerging problem and drive the biggest corresponding awareness campaign since the drunk driving campaigns of the 1980's.
Callout box: In 2012, 3,199 car accidents in Oregon resulted from distracted driving. That number is strikingly consistent with the prior year, which saw 3,191 car accidents on Oregon's roads involving distracted drivers. The stagnant numbers suggest that the massive efforts of governmental bodies and officials, and private activist citizens and groups, are yet to dent the issue. Nationwide statistics are similar.
Fighting the scourge that is distracted driving is a central part of my personal injury practice. I write articles about it, I frequently blog on the topic and I help victims of text messaging and driving accidents file lawsuits in Portland
and throughout Oregon to protect their rights.
Callout Box: You should know, distracted driving is much more than text messaging and driving. It is what it sounds like. Anything that distracts you when you're behind the wheel greatly enhances your chances of getting in an accident. It's that simple.
But it's also much more complicated. As I've written previously in my blog, experts have separated distracted driving into three broad categories: cognitive, visual and manual. Cognitive distractions are those that distract your thoughts, visual distractions take your eyes off the road and manual distractions occur when you take your hands off the wheel.
Examples of manual distractions are fiddling with your radio, handing something to your child, turning up the heat, eating while driving, text messaging or talking on your phone.
Examples of visual distractions are looking back at your kids, trying to read something, putting your makeup on, or looking at your phone to text message or dial a phone number.
Examples of cognitive distractions are thinking about your long day, spacing out, or talking to someone on your phone.
See the common thread? Cell phones. I'll say it bluntly: Cell phones are the worst things to happen to driving safety in as long as I can remember.
Alright, so here's where we get to the point of this article. Several studies have indicated that talking on a cell phone is nearly as bad as texting and driving, increasing your chances of getting in a car accident by four times. Talking on the phone behind the wheel involves, at various points, all three types of distracted driving.
Or does it? A new study out of Virginia Tech, released in December 2013, takes issue with the assertion that merely talking on the phone behind the wheel causes a distraction sufficient to constitute a safety danger. In particular, the study attempted to separate out the dialing task from the talking task and found no appreciable safety concern from merely talking.
Car accident safety groups, distracted driving activists and pedestrian accident prevention groups were aghast. They have called the study's methodology flawed. Critics have said the study missed the point entirely, focusing on the wandering eye (visual distractions) and not giving due weight to the cognitive distractions--which are, in the view of many, the central problem with chatting and driving.
The study, funded by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, involved wiring the vehicles of over 150 drivers with cameras, GPS systems and other sensors to watch their driving behavior.
Critics say the study was overly focused on swerving behaviors. Swerving is more commonly associated with manual or visual distractions. Drivers who are on their cell phone are looking straight ahead with both hands on the wheel. They're likely to drive straight. The problem is someone who doesn't have their head in the driving game is far more likely to run a red light or a stop sign--very significant and frequent causes of car accidents in Oregon and nationwide. The study, the critics point out, under-analyzed this issue. This strikes me as a valid criticism.
On balance, critics have railed the study as, at best, an outlier, that is outweighed by the substantial number of other tests and studies out there. At worst, they call it irresponsible in that it gives people a false sense of safety.
But, why not have an open dialogue? Why not try and understand empirically what is merely risky and what is life-threateningly dangerous? As long as everyone knows that the safest way to drive is eyes on the road with hands at 10 and 2, isn't more information better than less information. If some things aren't as dangerous as we once thought, so be it, let's reallocate our scarce resources for education and enforcement to the most dangerous spots.
Keep in mind, as the studies' critics have pointed out, this is one study that is directly contrary to a lot of other findings. This should not be considered the last word on the subject, only one word. In fact, it's more appropriately considered a minority view on the subject, and drivers should always err on the side of caution.
Distracted driving is a new problem, and understanding its causes and dangers is a new science. Expect the dialogue to continue, and I will keep you posted as to what they experts are saying--good and bad.
Sarah Nelson is a Portland car accident lawyer
who handles lawsuits in Oregon against distracted drivers. Contact Sarah Nelson today at 888-344-1932 or 503-928-8053 or send an email.
Sarah Nelson, P.C., is based in Portland, representing injured people across Northern Oregon. We provide legal help on personal injury involving auto accident, brain injury, medical malpractice and more. Attorney Sarah Nelson's mission in every case is to provide the highest quality of representation to her personal injury clients and maximum recovery with minimal hassle means having a lawyer who cares about you as an individual. Call us at 503-417-4227 for a consultation today.