Texting While Driving a Problem for Young Motorists: NHTSA Unveils New Distracted Driving Measure and NTSB Issues All-Call for a Ban on Cell Phone Use

National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) chairman Deborah Hersman has called a 2010 car accident a “big red flag for all drivers.” A 19-year-old traveling near Missouri at 55 mph rear-ended a tractor trailer in the beginning of what could only be described as a deadly, multi-vehicle, chain collision. Initially, reports a writer for the Associated Press, investigators were perplexed as to what could have caused the motorist to crash, but phone records quickly revealed the truth. He had either sent or received 11 texts in the 11 minutes immediately preceding the accident. Considering that texting while driving is a distraction on several fronts – visually, cognitively and manually – it’s no wonder that similar crashes often result, especially when teenage drivers are involved.

Still, car accident attorneys aren’t surprised that the accident has prompted NTSB to urge a nationwide ban on cellphone use while driving – for all age groups. Distracted driving is a prevalent issue. On Tuesday, December 13th, the National Transportation Safety Board became the first federal agency to “call for an outright prohibition on telephone conversations while driving” and a few states have already heeded the call to a certain extent, Georgia among them. The state recently banned texting while driving, although phone calls are still permitted for those 18 and older. Drivers under the age of 18 are banned from both texting and phone calls.

The statistics certainly appear to back up NTSB’s all-call. In 2008, a study by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA ) also found that distracted driving accounts for a whopping 16 percent of all fatal car crashes. Even more recently, the NHTSA rolled out a new way to measure distracted driving fatalities earlier this month, dubbed “distraction affected crashes,” that is specifically designed to better refine data collection.

NHTSA’s Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS) previously recorded a broad range of potential distractions, such as careless driving and cell phone present in the vehicle. The new measure focuses on and tallies distractions that are most likely to affect crash involvement, such as distraction by dialing a cellular phone or texting and distraction fomented by an outside person/event. New data released by NHTSA using its refined methodology show an estimated 3,092 fatalities in distraction-affected crashes in 2010.

The Federal Communication Commission (FCC) is another agency that has weighed in on the issue of distracted driving as well. According to its Website “putting the brakes on the distracted driving epidemic will require both dedication and creative thinking.” It takes a different, non-legal approach to preventing such accidents, choosing to work with various agencies and organizations to educate the public on the possible problems distracted driving can cause.

Furthermore, the FCC advises that parents themselves may take proactive measures to prevent their teens from being involved in similar incidents by:

1. Giving Clear Instructions. Give clear instructions to teens as a condition for allowing them to drive unsupervised. According to Cellular Telecommunications Industry Association their motto should be, “On the road, off the phone.”
2. Leading by Example. Don’t allow your children to see you taking the very same actions that you have cautioned them against.
3. Becoming Informed and Being Active. Review literature and statistics on distracted driving and create and employ your own house rules for family members.

The Website www.ghsa.org/html/stateinfo/laws/cellphone_laws.html provides information tailor-made to each state, so that citizens nationwide may familiarize themselves with local laws in order to ensure compliance. Visit that Website for more information, or contact a Georgia car accident attorney at www.robertnkatz.com.

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