U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said he will convene a meeting on September 30th to formulate “concrete steps….to make drivers think twice about taking their eyes off the road for any reason,” according to the Washington Post. Distracted driving from cellphone usage and texting is becoming an increasing problem on the roadways. Many states have taken steps to ban texting and limit or bar cellphone usage while driving in order to increase highway safety. It is estimated that cellphone use is a factor in 342,000 auto accident injuries and costs $43 billion each year in property damage, lost wages, medical bills and loss of life, according to the Washington Post. A study by the National Safety Council concluded that 1 million people are chatting behind the wheel at any given moment. And studies show that texting while driving is even more dangerous than talking on a cell phone or drinking and driving, according to New York Senator Charles Schumer who recently introduced a bill in the Senate to address distracted driving. The Washington Post reports that, according to a Harvard study, cellphone users are up to four times more likely to be in a traffic accident and, a study by the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute found that truck drivers are at an almost six times greater risk of causing a collision when reaching to dial their cell phones or 23 times more likely to cause an accident when texting.
Locally, the District of Columbia is the only jurisdiction that has a law on the books addressing distracted driving, as it is illegal to drive while talking on a hand-held cellphone. However, the Maryland legislature recently passed a bill to ban texting while driving and that law will be effective October 1, 2009. It is expected that local governments will face increasing pressure to pass legislation to address these issues and attempt to decrease the alarming rate of injury and death on the highways caused by distracted driving.
If you or a loved one is seriously injured as a result of a driver’s negligence and you suspect distracted driving played a role, you should consult a reputable Washington D.C. car accident lawyer immediately so he or she can begin to uncover what the negligent driver was doing immediately before the crash. At Goldberg Finnegan, we have experience with such cases and we would be happy to help you or your family.