To complement texting and cell phone bans, Kansas City attorney Douglas R. Horn is urging highway safety officials to initiate public awareness campaigns alerting all drivers to the risk created by distracted drivers. Horn says there is an increasing number of serious injuries and deaths resulting from violent, high-impact collisions caused by distracted drivers.
According to Horn, who concentrates his law practice on motor vehicle accident law and crash litigation, high-impact collisions are on the rise because more drivers than ever before are diverting their eyes from the road for many seconds at a time while they operate texting devices and smart phone applications. Horn says the distracted driving epidemic is not only being fueled by texting teens, but also by a growing number of adults who drive while simultaneously conducting business using their smart phones.
“Most adults have the idea that they are superior drivers and therefore, better able than teens to multitask behind the wheel without compromising their own safety or the safety of other drivers,” Horn says. “But recent multi-million-dollar judgments against corporations whose adult employees killed or injured other drivers and/or their passengers while using cell phones or smart phones show that adults can be just as distracted when using hand-held communication devices as younger, less experienced drivers.”
Horn says running red lights at full speed, swerving into oncoming traffic and rear-ending stopped vehicles are the three distracted driving behaviors currently producing the most severe injuries and fatalities.
“Distracted driving crashes are typically higher force and produce more fatalities and more serious injuries than other types of collisions,” says Horn. “Because of the severe force of impact, distracted drivers are potentially more deadly than drunk drivers, who, even with their slowed reaction time, sometimes manage to partially brake and lessen the impact of the collision.”
Horn is calling on both state and federal highway department officials to initiate comprehensive public awareness campaigns designed to educate all drivers about the risk created by distracted driving, which includes the ever-increasing probability of being seriously injured or killed in high-speed, high-impact highway collisions.
“Studies have shown that drivers freely admit that distracted driving carries a substantial risk, but the dilemma for safety advocates is that these same drivers continue to engage in distracted driving habits and behaviors when they get behind the wheel,” Horn says.
New Legislation Won't Help
Horn, who recently shared his ideas on distracted driving prevention with other highway safety experts at the Governors Highway Safety Association's 2012 Conference in Baltimore, says that the current emphasis being placed on writing and passing new legislation prohibiting cell phone use will not, on its own, produce a meaningful decrease in distracted driving.
“In addition to legislation, lasting improvement to our current driving culture can only be accomplished by educating the general public about the real risks presented to them by distracted drivers each time they use the highway,” Horn says.
He is confident that once informed of the dangers of distracted driving, the public will take the necessary steps to protect themselves, their passengers and other motorists.
“A well-designed public safety campaign, which reaches out and educates all drivers – not just teen drivers – will not only help effectively curb distracted driving, but it can also be used to diminish other types of dangerous driver behaviors on the highway, including aggressive driving and impaired driving,” Horn says.