Increase in cell phone use while driving linked to spike in road fatalities
As we head into the busy summer travel months, highway safety is top of mind for QCS Logistics. As a leading courier company based in New Orleans completing 1,000 deliveries per day throughout Louisiana and the Gulf South, we cover tens of thousands of roadway miles each month. Safety of our drivers, the cargo they deliver and the customers we serve is always top of mind, but recent studies combined with the increase in texting and driving should be cause for concern for everyone.
Road fatalities, which had fallen for years, are now rising sharply, up roughly 8 percent in 2015, according to preliminary results from the National Safety Council (NSC). This is the largest year-over-year increase in U.S. motor vehicle deaths in 50 years, and much of it can be attributed to the number of people who are on the road and engaged in social media and texting while driving.
Approximately 26 percent of all car crashes involve cell phone use, including the use of hands-free cell phones, according to the NSC. Drivers take their eyes off the road approximately five seconds per text, and drivers who are texting, posting selfies on Instagram or checking their Facebook page are six to 12 times more likely to be involved in an accident. Studies have shown thatdrivers can miss seeing close to 50 percent of what is around them when they are preoccupied with talking on a cell phone.
Through May 10, Louisiana State University's Highway Safety Research Group had logged 107,125 crashes in 2016. Of those, 755 were blamed on drivers distracted by a phone or other electronic device, with 239 of those wrecks involving an injury.
Louisiana, like most states, has made it illegal to text and visit social media sites while driving, and the law is even tougher if you’re under the age of 17 or a first-time driver. The Louisiana Legislature is considering increasing the fines for texting and driving, which currently start at $125 per offense, $500 for subsequent offenses and as much as twice that amount in the event of an accident.
Motor vehicle accidents are the leading cause of death for U.S. teens, and a new study from Carinsurance.com shows Louisiana is the third most dangerous state for teen drivers. Louisiana is tied with Arkansas for fifth highest rate of texting and driving, and ranks about average for the rate of drinking and driving. The study found 49 percent of Louisiana teens texting and driving and 9 percent are driving drunk.Initiatives for Safer Roads
Candace Lightner, the founder of Mothers Against Drunk Driving, has helped found a new group this year, Partnership for Distraction-Free Driving, which is circulating a petition to pressure social media companies like Facebook and Twitter to discourage multitasking by drivers. One Baton Rouge-based company—Cellcontrol—has developed a device that effectively prevents any type of hands-on cell phone use while behind the wheel. Meanwhile, proposed legislation in New York State would allow police to use a Textalyzer device to determine whether a driver had used the phone to text, email or do anything else that is forbidden under New York’s hands-free driving laws.
On the other end of the phone, a Pennsylvania judge recently ruled in a motor vehicle wrongful death suit that the sender of texts to a person they had reason to believe was driving could be held liable.
Driver safety is all of our responsibility. Below are some tips for ensuring you and your passengers make it to your destination uninjured and contribute to a safe summer on the road.Tips for Safer Driving
- Turn off mobile text notifications when you put your key in the ignition. AT&T DriveMode® is a free app that silences incoming text message alerts so you can keep your eyes on the road and stay focused while driving and sends a text to the sender to notify them you are driving.
- Consider purchasing a hands-free or blue tooth device to use while driving.
- If you have teens, educate them on the safety hazards of texting or using social media behind the wheel. Consider checking their phones when they get off the road to ensure they are obeying the texting and driving law.
- Set an example and take the “It Can Wait” pledge.
- If you know someone is driving, wait to text them or pick up the phone and call.
- Know the highway safety laws intended to make our roads safer.
- Never use a cell phone near a school or road construction site. Cell phone use is prohibited, even on hands-free devices, while driving in a school zone or in a highway construction zone.
- Rather than considering hands-free technology, make the decision to put down and turn off the technology until you’re done driving.
- If you have a task or call to make, or need to program an address into your GPS, pull over to a safe area and put your car in park until you are finished.
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