April is Distracted Driving Awareness Month
Posted on behalf of Lynch Law Firm on Apr 03, 2017 in Car Accidents News
Each year, April is recognized as National Distracted Driving Awareness Month.
Throughout the month, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) teams up with local law enforcement agencies throughout the state of New Jersey and the country for a nationwide campaign focused on cracking down on distracted driving offenders and spreading awareness about the dangers of distracted driving. The campaign, titled UDrive. UText. UPay., will run through April 21.
Our New Jersey auto accident attorneys are also working to help raise awareness of this important issue, as we have seen the devastating effects of distracted driving accidents.
What is Distracted Driving?
The New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission’s New Jersey NJTR-1 Crash Report Manual defines a distracted driver as anyone who diverts his or her attention away from the task of driving to focus on another activity. This includes using your hands, eyes or ears to:
- Talk on a cellphone
- Send a text message or email
- Use a GPS or navigation system
- Watch movies or videos
- Reach for an object
- Talk to passengers
- Adjust the sound or radio or choose a new song
- Eat or drink
- Conduct personal grooming
- Smoke a cigarette
- Focus on an insect inside the vehicle
- Focus on something outside of the vehicle
Distracted Driving Statistics
Distracted driving is a serious safety concern that puts everyone on the road in danger. Any moment your eyes are not on the road while driving significantly increases your chance for being involved in a vehicle collision.
Sending or receiving a text message takes a driver’s eyes off the road for an average of 4.6 seconds, during which time a vehicle traveling at 55 mph will have traveled the length of a football field.
According to the NHTSA, 3,477 people were killed and approximately 391,000 were injured in auto accidents involving distracted drivers in 2015, which is a nine percent increase in fatalities compared to the previous year.
Ten percent of fatal accidents, 15 percent of injury accidents and 14 percent of all reported crashes involved distracted driving, according to the NHTSA.
Although distracted driving can involve a number of activities, cellphone use is the most common form of distraction for U.S. drivers.
A National Safety Council Safety Public Opinion Poll from February 2017 showed that although 83 percent of survey respondents believe driving is a safety concern, 47 percent are comfortable sending a text message manually or through voice controls while driving.
And teens and young millennial drivers are the worst offenders. The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety found that 88 percent of young millennials admitted to texting and driving, speeding, or running red lights in the 30 days prior to the study.
The NHTSA has found that in 2015 drivers ages 15-19 years old had the largest proportion of drivers who were distracted at the time of a fatal crash.
New Jersey Distracted Driving Penalties
In 2013, New Jersey stiffened its existing distracted driving penalties and amended N.J.S.A. 39:4-97.3 to increase the fines and other penalties for talking or texting on a handheld wireless electronic communication device while driving. The law went into effect in July 2014.
It is considered a primary offense for a driver to talk or send a text message on a cellphone while driving. This means that a police officer can pull a driver over and issue a citation if the driver was seen using a cellphone while behind the wheel.
The penalties for using a cellphone while driving include:
- First offense: $200 to $400 fine
- Second offense: $400 to $600 fine
- Third offense or subsequent violation: $600 to $800 fine
The only situation in which a driver may use a cellphone while driving with one hand on the wheel is if he or she fears for his or her life or safety or if he or she is reporting an emergency to the appropriate authorities. This can include reporting a fire, traffic crash, serious road hazard, drunk driver, reckless or careless driver, or medical emergency.
Tips to Avoid Distracted Driving
With the widespread prevalence of distracted driving, it is more important than ever that drivers take the time to ensure safety while behind the wheel. Some of the best tips for preventing distracted driving include:
- Stay committed to putting your full focus on the task of driving and not letting anything divert your attention away from that task.
- Make any necessary adjustments before you begin your trip, such as setting your GPS, setting the temperature of the vehicle or the radio and sound level, and adjusting your seat or mirror.
- Store loose objects that could become a distraction if they move during transit in a secure place.
- Limit the number of passengers in your vehicle. If your children, pets or other passengers need your attention while you are driving, pull off to the side of the road to safely care for them.
- Put aside all electronic devices and do not touch them while driving. Pull to the side of the road if you need to make a call or send an email or text message.
- Do not eat, brush your hair, do your makeup or engage in other grooming activities while behind the wheel.
If you have been injured or lost a loved one in a crash caused by a distracted driver, you may have legal options. Schedule a free, no obligation consultation with the personal injury attorneys at Lynch Law Firm to find out if you are entitled to compensation for medical bills, pain and suffering, lost wages, or more.
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