Distracted driving is everywhere. We see it on our major highways and winding rural roads. We see it on busy city streets and in residential neighborhoods. Many drivers are confident they can get away with it because they've been doing it for years. You may see them briefly swerve out of their lanes before catching themselves.
There is no such thing as being a skilled distracted driver. It only takes a split second to make an error and cause a devastating crash. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports that 3,166 people were killed on US roads in 2017. Most drivers understand the risk, so why do so many people engage in it?
Mass. poised to take action against distracted driving
Currently, Massachusetts is among several states without a statewide cellphone ban for drivers age 18 and older.
Massachusetts is now one step closer to prohibiting drivers from using handheld devices behind the wheel, according to a story in Boston.com. The state senate recently voted to approve a new distracted driving bill (S.2216) that could impose a $100 fine for first-time offenders caught using a phone while driving.
Further penalties would include $250 for second-time offenders, and $500 for subsequent offenders, in addition to completing a required program that "encourages a change in driver behavior and attitude about distracted driving." Third-time or subsequent offenders could also have a surcharge placed on their car insurance policy.
The bill would only make exceptions when cellphones are used in emergency situations, when no passengers are available.
"Holding the phone for any reason - making or receiving a text, making or receiving a phone call, browsing the web or any other behavior with an electronic device - is strictly prohibited," said Democratic Senator Joseph Boncore, co-chair of the Senate Transportation Committee.
Currently, Massachusetts law prohibits only minors from all phone uses behind the wheel, but if S.2216 becomes law, it would apply to all drivers.
Understanding the dangers of distracted driving
Distracted driving doesn't always have to involve phones, but with the advent of handheld technology, distracted driving has become an even greater threat to public safety. According to Psychology Today, there are three types of distractions that are likely to cause a crash:
- Visual - Involves taking eyes off the road to engage in a secondary task
- Manual - Involves taking one or both hands off the wheel to engage in a secondary task
- Cognitive - Involves daydreaming, "highway hypnosis," tiredness, and other forms of mental distraction
Avoiding the dangers of distracted driving
According to Mass.gov, the number of crashes caused by distracted driving rose 170 percent from 2014-2016. In order to reduce the risk, Mass.gov offers effective methods drivers can use to avoid distracted driving:
- Turn off your phone or switch it to silent mode before getting into your car.
- Place your phone somewhere you can't reach it.
- Set up a special message to notify callers that you are driving and will get back to them later.
- If you must make a call, send a text, or use your phone for any other reason, pull over somewhere safe and put your car in park.
- If you have a passenger in your car, ask him or her to communicate for you.
- Educate yourself on state laws regarding behind-the-wheel phone use.
- If you must use a GPS, program it before you begin driving, ask a passenger, or pull over.
- Make sure your pets are secured.
- If you have children in your car in and need to address a situation, pull over somewhere safe.
- Avoid smoking, eating, drinking, reading, or any other form of distraction behind the wheel.
If you or a loved one was injured in a crash caused by someone who was distracted, you may be eligible for compensation. An experienced car accident attorney at the Law Offices of Mark E. Salomone will help guide you through the claims process and fight on your behalf.
Get started today. Contact us now for a free case evaluation.