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Distracted Driving: A Rising Epidemic

Distracted driving is on the rise in El Paso and throughout the United States and accounts for hundreds of thousands of accidents and fatalities each year.   Distracted driving is defined as any activity that has the potential to divert a person’s attention away from the primary task of driving.  Distracted drivers endanger drivers, passengers, and bystanders. Types of distracted driving include:

  • Texting
  • Using a cell phone / smartphone
  • Eating or drinking
  • Talking to passengers
  • Putting on makeup
  • Reading, including maps
  • Using navigation / GPS
  • Watching a video
  • Adjusting a radio, CD player, or MP3 player

Text messaging requires visual, manual, and cognitive attention from the driver and is by far the most problematic driving distraction.

Here are some alarming statistics about distracted driving:

  • 3,360 people were killed in the United States in distraction related cases in 2011.
  • 3,328 people were killed in the United States in distraction related cases in 2012.
  • Approximately 421,000 people were injured in the United States in motor vehicle accidents involving a distracted driver in 2012.
  • 387,000 people were injured as the result of distracted driving in 2011.
  • 10% of all drivers under age 20 involved in fatal crashes were reported as distracted. This age group has the largest proportion of drivers who were distracted.
  • Drivers in their 20s make up 27% of the distracted drivers in fatal crashes.
  • In 2011, over 81,000 automobile collisions took place in TX as a result of distracted motorists, according to the Texas Department of Transportation.

Laws Preventing Distracted Driving:

EL PASO CELL PHONE BAN:

https://www.elpasotexas.gov/muni_clerk/_documents/Ordinance%20017286.pdf

El Paso passed a city ordinance prohibiting the use of cellular phones while operating a vehicle.  According to the ordinance you can use your wireless communication device only while completely stopped and off of the roadway. You can also your cell phone it if it is integrated with or attached to the vehicle.  All devices must be used solely in “voice-activated” or “hands-free” mode while driving.  According to the El Paso Police “temporary or brief use of a hand-held wireless communication device is generally unacceptable and can result in a citation.”

In summary, if you hold your cell phone while driving or use a hands-free device in an unsafe manner, the police may issue a citation.  Fines for operating a motor vehicle while using a cell phone are $116.00 per offense in El Paso.

FEDERAL MOTOR CARRIER SAFETY REGULATIONS (FMCSR):

http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2010-09-27/pdf/2010-23861.pdf)

The FMCSRs are the federal regulations that apply to 18-Wheelers and other commercial motor vehicles that travel in interstate commerce.  The FMCSRs prohibit truck drivers from texting or using a cell phone while operating an 18-Wheeler.

The Federal law restricts a Commercial Motor Vehicle (CMV) driver from reaching for or holding a cell phone to make a phone call. It also restricts a CMV driver from pressing a button or altogether dialing a number on their phone. CMV motorists are permitted to use a hands-free device within close range while operating a motor vehicle. The law was put in place to avoid the unnecessary distraction of reaching for a phone or even shifting a driver’s attention to a phone or device to dial a number.

The Federal law also restricts texting while operating a CMV.  Research shows the odds of being involved in a crash or near crash are 23.2 times greater for CMV drivers who text while driving than for those who do not. Texting means manually entering text into, or reading text from, an electronic device.

If you or a loved one have been seriously injured or killed by a distracted driver in a car, 18-Wheeler or other commercial motor vehicle, call Clark Harmonson at the Harmonson Law Firm at 915-584-8777 for a free consultation to discuss your rights.  Car accident lawyer Clark Harmonson represents victims of wrecks involving distracted drivers in El Paso, Texas, Las Cruces, New Mexico and throughout Texas, New Mexico and Arizona.

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