Distracted driving claims thousands of lives and causes hundreds of thousands of injuries every year. It has become such a threat to traffic safety that the entire month of April has been designated as Distracted Driving Awareness Month.
This is an opportunity for organizations like the National Safety Council (NSC) and others to raise awareness and educate the public about the dangers of distracted driving.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is also partnering with law enforcement agencies across the nation to crackdown on distracted driving to help prevent car crashes.
In Massachusetts, Governor Charles D. Baker has also designated the month of April as Distracted Driving Awareness Month. The proclamation notes that the best way to combat distracted driving is to educate all residents of our state about the risk posed by distracted driving.
What Is Distracted Driving?
The governor’s proclamation states that any activity that diverts attention away from the primary task of driving is a distraction.
- Visual distractions that take your eyes off the road
- Cognitive distractions that cause your mind to wander when you drive
- Physical distractions occur when your hands leave the wheel for any reason
Common driving distractions include:
- Reading or sending text messages
- Making or receiving phone calls
- Intense conversations or arguments with passengers
- Grooming, such as applying makeup or combing your hair
- Reaching for things in your car
- Using a GPS or navigation system
- Changing the radio station
- Changing air conditioning settings
Texting or using your smartphone for any other reason is often considered the most dangerous type of distraction because it involves your eyes, mind and hands.
However, any distraction increases your risk of an accident that could cause a personal injury, and should be avoided.
Distracted Driving Laws in Massachusetts
Massachusetts prohibits operators of motor vehicles from using a cellphone for reading or sending text messages (Massachusetts General Laws Part 1 Title XIV Chapter 90 Section 13B).
However, the law does not consider you to be an operator of a motor vehicle unless the vehicle is part of the public way intended for travel. This means that the law does not apply if the vehicle is stationary and out of the public way.
Violating this law is considered a primary offense and law enforcement can pull you over to issue a citation. Fines for offenses are as follows:
- $100 for first offense
- $250 for second offense
- $500 for every subsequent offense
State law also prohibits drivers under the age of 18 from using cellphones and other mobile electronic devices for any reason.
Penalties for violations of this law include:
- First offense: $100 fine and 60-day suspension of license or learner’s permit, with reinstatement only being available after completion of a program selected by the registrar
- Second offense: $250 fine and 180-day license suspension
- Third offense: $500 fine with license suspension of one year
Distracted Driving Statistics
According to the governor’s proclamation about Distracted Driving Awareness month, there were 3,179 deaths and 431,000 injuries related to distracted driving in 2014. The number of deaths increased in 2015 to 3,477, almost a nine percent increase over 2014.
The NHTSA reports that distracted driving is a factor in 10 percent of fatal accidents, 15 percent of injury accidents and 14 percent of all crashes.
Unfortunately, an NSC survey from earlier this year shows that drivers are not as concerned about the risk of distracted driving as they should be.
Even though 83 percent of drivers believe driving is a safety concern, and 74 percent believe distracted driving is a major concern, nearly 50 percent of drivers are comfortable sending a text manually or with voice controls while behind the wheel.
Tips for Managing Driver Distraction
Although distractions can be tempting, you can take additional steps to decrease the likelihood of distraction for both you and your loved ones.
- If possible, ask passengers to send messages or respond to emails for you.
- Turn off your phone completely or switch it to silent before you get in the car to reduce temptation.
- Let loved ones or friends know that you are driving and will get back to them later by setting up an automated message.
- If you need to make a call or send a text message, pull over safely first.
- Secure your pet so that it is not a distraction in the car.
- Minimize other activities such as eating, drinking, reading, or navigating as much as possible so you can keep your eyes on the road.
- Review maps and directions or set up navigation before you start driving.
- Always pull over to a safe location if you need to address problems with children or pets in the car.
If you were injured or lost a loved one in an accident caused by a distracted driver, you could be entitled to compensation.
The auto accident injury attorneys at Janet, Janet & Suggs can help you pursue fair compensation.
Contact us today to schedule a free, no obligation legal consultation.
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