The Dangers of Distracted Driving

The Dangers of Distracted Driving

The driver’s license you carry around in your purse or wallet comes with a set of responsibilities. The biggest one is to stay focused on the road when you’re behind the wheel. There are plenty of distractions, from the song on the radio to the soda in your cupholder, but nowadays, the biggest distraction tends to come in the form of smartphones.

States are still figuring out how to deal with drivers who text, tweet, or Instagram while driving. Most states seem to have concluded that texting while driving is a very bad idea. 47 states and the District of Columbia ban texting while driving, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. Montana and Arizona are apparently cool with people driving down the highway and texting, while Missouri only bans it for drivers 21 and under. So in Missouri, you can celebrate your 21st birthday by driving to a bar and texting all the way there. That doesn’t make it a good idea, but it’s technically legal in the Show Me State.

However, you can still be held criminally and civilly liable in Missouri if you cause an accident while on your cell phone. If you’re playing Tetris and strike a pedestrian in a crosswalk, there’s nothing stopping the injured pedestrian from calling a personal injury lawyer and suing you. And a jury probably isn’t going to be all that sympathetic to a driver who was focused on their cell phone instead of the road.

States like Washington are really cracking down on distracted driving, in fact. If you’re in Seattle, you aren’t even supposed to look at your cell phone at a red light (so much for that loophole). You can’t even check Twitter if you’re stuck in traffic, or you risk getting an expensive ticket. However, if you take Interstate 90 east into Idaho, you still can’t text and drive, but you can still put your phone up to your ear and call someone while driving. In Washington, that’s strictly forbidden now; you’re required to use a hands-free device if you’re going to make a call.

Since rules vary so much from place to place, it’s a good idea to buy a dashboard cradle for your phone if you must use it for say, navigation purposes. However, if you’re driving locally and don’t anticipate needing directions, it’s an even better idea to just stash your phone in the drunk. Out of sight, out of mind, and all that. Those little devices can be very tempting, and it’s best to remove as much temptation as possible.

If you’re a passenger in a car with a distracted driver, what should you do? Well, if they’re texting someone, ask them what’s so urgent about it. Offer to take the phone and text the message for them. You can do that since you aren’t the one behind the wheel. If they refuse to give up their phone, then it’s time to get really serious. If it’s illegal in your state, mention how expensive distracted driving tickets are. If it’s not illegal, talk about how it’s incredibly unsafe. If they aren’t moved by your appeals, you have to consider whether or not you want to ride with them in the future. They may be upset and accuse you of “making a big deal out of nothing,” but distracted driving is very much a big deal. It’s better to risk offending someone than to ride with an unsafe driver.


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