At a distracted-driving summit in Texas, U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood recently advocated for a national ban on using a cell phone while driving. According to LaHood, talking and texting on a cell phone while driving is a "national epidemic," and federal legislation is the only way to deal with the growing danger of car accidents caused by distracted drivers.
LaHood was speaking at the summit along with other government officials, transportation safety advocates and victims of distracted-driving car accidents or their family members. LaHood said the keys to reducing distracted driving crashes are personal responsibility, good laws and good enforcement.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, distracted driving caused 3,000 fatal car accidents last year. It is a small percentage of the overall number of fatal car accidents, but critics say it is a percentage that is completely preventable.
In December 2011, the National Transportation Safety Board recommended that all states ban cellphone use by drivers, meaning no texting or talking on a hand-held or hands-free device except in an emergency. Currently, no state actually bans all cell phone use.
LaHood is working to pass a national law but understands it is up to Congress to introduce such a bill. LaHood also states that a national campaign is needed to educate drivers on the dangers of distracted driving. According to the NHTSA, using a cellphone while driving delays a driver's reaction time just as much as having a blood alcohol concentration of 0.08 percent, which is the legal limit for drunk driving.
Some argue that resources should be focused on all types of distracted driving and not just on people who use cellphones while driving. Gary Biller, president of the National Motorists Association, argues that people who eat, apply makeup or change the radio station while driving are just as dangerous as drivers using cellphones.
Distracted driving is a serious problem, and the use of cellphones has compounded the situation. Time will tell if the current laws are enough to protect everyone on the road, or if Congress will have to move toward a total ban on cell phone use while driving.
If you have been injured in a distracted driving accident, contact a knowledgeable personal injury attorney to discuss any potential legal remedies.