April is Distracted Driver Awareness month. The irony of the moniker is not lost on me, and is probably not lost on you either. Distracted drivers are hardly aware of anything, other than their iPhone, the radio, that Big Mac they just got at the drive-thru, the makeup they decided to apply driving down the road instead of at home, or any combination of these. Despite having only two hands, distracted drivers make mighty efficient use of those appendages for things other than keeping their car under proper control. You might even BE one of those distracted drivers or maybe know one.
Over 25% of all car crashes involve cell phone use, including hands-free. This is probably a very low estimate of the actual number of car crashes involving cell phone use – most will not admit to using a cell phone when in a wreck. (Sidebar: Getting cell phone records now becomes an important part of establishing liability.) In 2011, Kentucky had only 8 reported car crash fatalities involving cell phone use, as did Indiana. Just to the south of us, Tennessee had 93 reported car crash fatalities involving cell phones in 2011.According to the National Safety Council, thousands die on the roads each year, and the primary culprit is cell phone use. At any moment, 9% of drivers are talking on a cell phone. So, obviously, the number one way to avoid this is to stop using cellphones while driving. Kentucky law (KRS § 189.292) already prohibits the use of a cell phone to send or receive (i.e., read) a text message or e-mail. However, the law does not prohibit a driver from using that same cell phone to type or dial a phone number, or use the phone to make or receive a call. Hands-free devices seem like an alternative, yet drivers talking on handheld or hands-free cell phones are four times as likely to be involved in a car crash.
At the end of the day, it’s up to you to use your phone responsibly and understand the dangers posed by these and other distractions when operating a car.