Arizona is taking a small step toward making texting and driving illegal in the state. According to a news report in The Arizona Republic, the proposed Senate Bill 1080 would ban teen drivers from using cell phones for six months after they get their driver’s license. Advocates of more stringent distracted driving laws are asking lawmakers to extend the proposed texting ban to all drivers.
A Baby Step Toward a Total Ban
Among those asking for a total texting ban are individuals who have lost loves ones in distracted driving accidents. Lawmakers have responded by saying they don’t believe a total ban would pass the Senate due to “logistical and philosophical” objections. But they say putting a limit on teen-driver texting may be the first step toward a broader ban on texting while driving. Arizona is one of one four states that doesn’t have some type of ban on texting while driving.
But state legislators have been trying for the last decade to get one passed. Several attempts have failed over the years as 46 other states have imposed some type of limitation on texting and driving. Missouri, Montana and Texas are the three other states that don’t have any type of texting ban in place. Lawmakers hope moving forward on SB 1080 will continue the conversation about texting and driving. The bill calls for a $75 fine and 30-day extension of the six-month limit on a teen’s graduated driver’s license for a first offense. Penalties will correspondingly increase with every offense.
The Problem of Texting and Driving
According to the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), in 2014, 3,179 people were killed, and 431,000 were injured in auto accidents involving distracted drivers. The agency also reported that 10 percent of all drivers between ages 15 and 19 who were involved in fatal car accidents were reported as “distracted” at the time of the crashes. This is the age group that has the largest proportion of drivers who were distracted at the time of the crashes.
It is also worth noting that drivers in their 20s are 23 percent of drivers in all fatal crashes, but accounted for 27 percent of the distracted drivers and 38 percent of distracted drivers who were using cell phones during deadly crashes. At any given daylight moment across the nation, about 660,000 drivers are using cell phones or manipulating electronic devices while driving. Studies show that texting and driving increases the risk of a crash by 23 times.
Why Texting and Driving is Dangerous
Distracted driving is any activity that could take a person’s attention away from the primary task of driving. There are a number of different types of distractions while driving including texting, using a cell phone, eating, drinking, talking to passengers, grooming, reading, looking at maps or using a navigation system, watching a video and adjusting the radio or temperature controls. Any activity that can cause you to take your hands off the wheel, eyes off the road or attention away from the act of driving qualifies as distracted driving. And because text messaging requires visual, manual and cognitive attention from the driver, it is by far the most alarming distraction.
According to a 2009 study by the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute, five seconds is the average time your eyes are off the road while texting. When traveling at 55 mph, that is enough time to cover the entire length of a football field blindfolded. New research is showing that even hands-free texting can be distracting because it is still a cognitive distraction even though you may not have to take your hands off the wheel or eyes off the road.
Injured by a Distracted Driver?
Distracted driving accidents cause significant injuries or even fatalities. If you or a loved one has been injured in a car accident involving a texting driver, there are a number of steps you would be well advised to take in order to protect your rights. First and foremost, be sure to remain at the scene of the crash. When the authorities arrive, file a police report. If you saw the driver looking at a phone or holding a phone, be sure to mention that to the officer so it gets in the report. Take as many photographs as possible of the accident scene, the vehicle, roadway conditions and your injuries.
Talk to any eyewitnesses who may have seen the driver texting or distracted. Be sure to obtain contact information for eyewitnesses. Get prompt medical attention, treatment and care for your injuries. Contact an experienced Arizona personal injury lawyer who can look into whether the driver was distracted or using a cell phone at the time. A knowledgeable attorney will be able to request crucial evidence such as cell phone records, which can help determine whether the driver was texting or if that dangerous behavior caused or contributed to the crash.
What is Your Claim Worth?
The value or worth of your Arizona personal injury accident claim will depend on the nature and extent of injuries you have sustained in the crash. For example, if you did not suffer injuries that required you to get treatment or take time off work, your claim might not be worth as much as a case where the victim was seriously or catastrophically injured. It would still be in your best interest to contact an experienced Arizona car accident lawyer who will analyze all aspects of your case, help you secure maximum compensation for your losses and hold the at-fault parties liable.
There are a number of steps drivers can take to prevent getting distracted by their cell phones. Turn off your cell phone before you hit the road. If you must text or make a call, pull over to a safe location, turn off the engine and then do what you need to do. Put your cell phone out of reach so you are not tempted to check it when you are stopped at a light or when traffic is slow. If you or a loved one has been injured by a distracted driver, the experienced personal injury attorneys at the Pew Law Center can help you better understand your legal rights and options. Call us for a no-cost consultation and case evaluation.