April is Distracted Driving Awareness Month in Colorado and Here is Why
It can be as simple as glancing at a text message or as involved as navigating your way around an unknown part of town on Google Maps. Either way, it is a recipe for potential disaster.
Before today is over, according to the Center for Disease Control, more than eight people will be killed and more than 1,100 will be injured as a result of distracted driving. In the decade since the birth of the smartphone, annual distracted driving deaths have nearly doubled. Cambridge Mobile Telematics, which makes apps for auto insurance companies, just released a study that shows one in four drivers were on their phone minutes before crashing. Worse still, drivers were distracted at some point in 52 percent of trips that ended in a car accident.
Time to Pay Attention
In Colorado alone, distracted driving deaths have been on the rise for years, accounting for nearly 15 percent of all traffic accident fatalities. Officials estimate that distracted driving contributes to 40 accidents every day in the state of Colorado, which has led Colorado to become one of the latest states to recognize April as National Distracted Driving Awareness Month.
Although smartphones receive most of the blame for distracted driving today, it’s much more than that. It’s “any activity that diverts attention from driving, including talking or texting on your phone, eating and drinking, talking to people in your vehicle, fiddling with the stereo, entertainment or navigation system—anything that takes your attention away from the task of safe driving,” according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
It’s gotten so bad, officials in Colorado have begun calling it an epidemic.
“I think people don’t understand the real danger when they take their eyes off the road,” Colorado Department of Transportation Spokesman Sam Cole told the Denver Post. “We know that an accident happens in an instant and unless you’re ready to respond, it could have tragic consequences. If you’re going 65, 70 miles per hour and take your eyes off the road to read a message, that’s the equivalent of driving the length of a football field and a lot can happen in that time.”
Pedestrians at Risk
Pedestrians are not immune. In fact, they are faring worse than ever. Pedestrian fatalities jumped 11percent last year, far outpacing the rate of motorist deaths. The nearly 6,000 pedestrian deaths last year was the highest in more than 20 years, according to a study by Sam Schwartz Transportation Consultants. Pedestrian deaths now account for roughly 15 percent of all traffic fatalities.
The researchers point to a number of factors for the alarming rise in pedestrian deaths – more drivers on the roads because of lower gas prices, and more people on the sidewalks thanks to a rise in fitness activity – but the study’s authors point to the boom of smartphones and other electronic devices, which can easily distract people both on and off the road.
It is also worth noting that nearly everyone agrees that incidents of distracted driving – or even walking – are vastly under-reported.
Companies Crack Down
Employers, who are increasingly being held liable for on-the-job auto accidents, are starting to take note and launched a crusade to eliminate distracted driving. Since car accidents are the leading cause of work-related deaths, it makes sense. Beyond that, accidents are expensive for employers. According to the National Safety Council, on-the-job crashes cost more than $24,000 in property damage per incident and $150,000 for every crash that involves an injury.
Some companies, of course, saw this trend years ago. Corporate giants such as ExxonMobil and Shell Oil prohibited their employees from cell phone use while driving on company business nearly 15 years ago. Walt Disney Co. followed suit more than seven years ago. In fact, based on NSC’s research, roughly 20 percent of Fortune 500 companies had similar bans in place as of 2010, the most recent year for which data is available.
In today’s, fast-paced, always-on-the-go world, drivers have never been more distracted – or in more danger. If you’ve been hurt in a car accident because someone else wasn’t paying attention to what they were doing behind the wheel, do not wait to contact an experienced Colorado personal injury lawyer at Burg Simpson at 303-792-5595 or fill out a Free Case Evaluation form before it is too late.