With public attention focused on decreasing the use of cell phones in cars, by both teenage drivers and adults as well, data from the most recent studies indicate the danger continues to grow. The number of serious crashes and deaths caused by distracted driving certainly continues to increase. While almost every state has passed laws that make it illegal to send or receive text and/or email messages while driving, these laws have proved ineffective at stopping the dangerous behavior. The latest numbers show that almost 6000 people are dying each year from car crashes caused by distracted driving.

There are two basic problems with the current approach, first enforcement is difficult for police officers because it is not illegal to dial a cellphone while driving, so identifying someone who is actually texting while driving is all but impossible unless the officer observes a driver weaving all over the road, then pulls the driver over, asks them if they were texting or emailing, and the driver actually admits to the illegal activity. According to court records reviewed by the Associated Press, this process has resulted in approximately 1200 people receiving tickets under the “texting ban” in North Carolina since the law went into effect in December of 2009. The second problem is that many drivers fail to appreciate the deadly danger.

Studies that have interviewed teens and adults find that most people who text while driving feel that they can text and also drive safely. They feel that they can look away from the road and still keep their car under control. This is a naive attitude at best. As this author has asserted in prior posts, education is the key to solving his social epidemic.

The Distracted Driving Safety Alliance (DDSA) is taking steps to gather and educate individuals and organizations from all across society to find ways to curb all behaviors that distract teens and adults alike. Educating all drivers about the “best practices” for driving is something the DDSA is trying to accomplish. Here are the DDSA’s best practices for new drivers:

1. Use your seat belt when driving and make sure all passengers do too!
2. Make driving your first priority! Always keep your eyes on the road.
3. Avoid distractions inside the car such as loud music and talking with friends.
4. Don’t text or use your cell phone while driving. Pull over to do so .
5. Don’t drink or use drugs and drive. Don’t ride with anyone who has done either one.
6. Tell your parents where you are, what you are doing, and when you expect to return.
7. Drive responsibly and obey all traffic laws.

The problem of distracted driving is also a major safety issue for veteran drivers as well. Many professionals are so connected to their business by way of the cell phone that they have a hard time putting them down while driving. Checking emails and sending and receiving text messages are how many of us stay connected while on the road. The result is that at least 50% of the fatalities caused by distracted driving are caused by adults.

The DDSA has also published a good list of “best practices” for veteran drivers as well:
1. Make sure that driving is your first priority. This means that you should: Buckle up,
Keep your hands on the wheel, and Keep your eyes on the road.
2. Do not drive impaired from alcohol consumption or drug use.
3. Do not text while driving. If you have to make a call using a cell phone, use a
hands-free device, or pull over and dial manually.
4. Never take notes when driving. Pull off the road if you must read or write.
5. If it is dangerous or inconvenient to answer a telephone call, allow voicemail to pick up
the call. You can return the call later.
6. Enter destinations into a GPS when the car is stopped. Properly mount GPS devices
so they do not become loose during sudden stops.
7. Wear sunglasses when driving in bright sunlight to reduce distractions caused by sun
8. Refrain from eating, putting on make-up, or fiddling with the radio while driving in the
9. Don’t pick up items that have fallen to the floor while driving. Pick them up after you
have parked.
10. Model good driving behavior by observing traffic laws and using technology safely
when in the car.

If we all followed the above common sense and basic rules of the road, we could drastically reduce the number of serious car crashes and the number of people seriously injured or killed each year in our country. Let’s all do our part. Discuss these rules with your teenage drivers and with your other family members who drive. Please drive safely!

Davis Law Group is a personal injury law firm in Asheville, North Carolina, and we are dedicated to reducing the number of serious injuries and deaths on our state’s and nations’ highways. We are a proud member of the Distracted Driving Safety Alliance.