As if we didn’t already have enough distractions, on-board GPS systems, portable DVD players, iPods and Smartphones have created more driving distractions than ever before. It’s not atypical for a vehicle to simultaneously have ringing phones, cartoons blaring from the backseat and a GPS incessantly yelping orders.
Even though elements like those mentioned above have proven to make it nearly impossible for a driver to devote their full attention to the road, many drivers still think they’re perfectly safe drivers.
Here’s a simple yes-or-no quiz you should take to determine just how safe you are when driving with distractions (The answers directly follow the test. Good luck!)
* * *
1. Is it okay for passengers to watch a movie on the vehicle’s in-dash video screen?
2. Have there been any criminal cases alleging electronic devices were the causing factor in vehicle accidents?
3. Can in-dash monitors for rear-view camera and navigation purposes be installed in the front seat?
4. Is it okay to drive as you eat or drink?
5. Do driver distractions cause a large percentage of accidents?
6. Do federal laws govern the use of mobile devices like a GPS in moving vehicles?
7. Can the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) regulate cell phone usage in moving vehicles?
8. Are lawmakers concerned with vehicle crashes related to driver distraction?
9. Do any states totally ban hand-held cell phone use while driving?
10. Can your employer be held liable if you’re using a cell phone and crash into someone or something?
* * *
The answer is no. Not only do most front seat, in-dash video screens generally have a feature preventing it from showing entertainment or business video when the car is moving, but it would also be unsafe since it would inevitably catch the driver’s peripheral vision and distract them. Furthermore, many state laws regulate the placement and use of on-board video screens.
The answer is yes. One example would be a 2004 case that took place in Alaska. The driver was allegedly watching video on his DVD player when he struck another vehicle and killed two people. Although the driver claimed he was only adjusting his CD player, he was charged with second-degree murder on the premise he engaged in conduct showing an indifference to human life.
The answer is yes. If the device has the feature preventing it from showing entertainment and business video, then it can be installed and used in the vehicle’s front seat.
The answer is no. Eating and drinking isn’t the distraction that watching a movie or text messaging is, however, it’s still an unsafe driving practice. The bottom line is doing and thinking about anything aside from driving can distract you from the road and lead you to look away, remove your hands from the steering wheel, or become mentally preoccupied.
The answer is yes. Over six million crashes, three million crash-related injuries, and 42,000 crash-related deaths occur each year in the U.S., of which driver distraction accounts for 1.2 million to 1.8 million, or roughly 20-30 percent.
The answer is no. In some states, there are state laws that prohibit the use of hand-held cell phones in moving vehicles, but there aren’t any federal laws regulating the use of mobile devices in a moving vehicles.
The answer is no. Cell phone laws are enacted at the state or local levels. However, NHTSA is able to regulate the use of motor vehicle equipment and devices.
The answer is yes. Over the last decade, several states have already passed or presented legislation related to driver distraction and vehicle crashes, and the number of states looking into such laws grow every day.
The answer is yes. Nine states, including California, Washington, New York and New Jersey prohibit all drivers from using hand-held cell phones while driving. Additionally, 30 states and the District of Columbia ban novice drivers from using both hands-free and hand-held cell phones.
The answer is yes. Your employer can be held liable in a court of law. Under respondeat superior, an employer can be held liable in civil court for employee acts committed within the course of employment.
* * *
How many did you get right? Maybe you’ve learned a few new facts, or maybe you gained a new respect for what you already knew. Either way, it’s time to put down the food, turn off that cell phone and start keeping your mind and body focused on the road ahead of you.
Gunn Mowery wants to help you stay safe on the road. For more information on this discussion or insurance tips, contact your representative at (800) 840-1243 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Become our Facebook fan at www.facebook.com/gunnmowery.