Articles Tagged with “texting while driving”

textingincar-c-300Here is another reason for Massachusetts and other states to consider passing laws which ban handheld cell phone use by drivers. A new study reports one in four drivers who crashed was using a cell phone within the previous minute. Cambridge Mobile Telematics released the study last week to coincide with April’s Distracted Driving Awareness Month.

Our country needs a reminder this year. Motor vehicle accident deaths are on the rise, as the National Safety Council reported nearly 40,000 deaths in traffic crashes last year. In fact, the period from 2014 to 2016 saw the largest two-year increase in more than 50 years.

Meanwhile, this year has already seen hundreds of deaths across the U.S. Just last month came a horrific accident in Texas. A driver in Uvalde County, who was texting while driving his pick-up truck, crashed into a church bus, killing 13 people. Texas is one of 5 states which do not ban texting while driving.

Driving talking on a cell phone in car

As attorneys, we have represented hundreds of victims of motor vehicle crashes over the past three decades. In recent years, we have seen texting while driving and cell phone use by drivers multiply at an alarming rate, causing a stunning number of injuries and deaths. These injuries are preventable, but each year, drivers continue to reach for their phones and the toll rises.

According to the US Department of Transportation, cell phones are now involved in 1.6 million auto crashes each year, injuring 500,000 people and causing 6,000 deaths. While many states have already passed legislation to reduce distracted driving accidents, some are now considering additional measures, including Massachusetts.

Massachusetts lawmakers passed the Safe Driving Law in 2010, which banned texting while driving. There was no further action until January 2016, when the Massachusetts state Senate passed a bill banning handheld cell phone use. The ban would have allowed drivers to use hands free technology to dial and talk. According to the State House News Service, the Massachusetts House of Representatives gave initial approval to a similar bill but the legislation stalled.

With Governor’s Comments, Handheld Cell Phone Debate Returns to the News

Massachusetts State HouseThere was no update for several months. Then Governor Charlie Baker spoke in February, indicating he may not support a handheld ban.

“I don’t want to get out of the business of making it possible for people to talk to other people when they’re driving. Because I think the texting thing is a big problem. I’m not sure I believe that the talking thing is,” Baker said during his “Ask the Governor” segment on WGBH Thursday. His comments were published by the State House News Service.

When the show’s co-host noted that drivers could use hands-free Bluetooth devices, Baker said:

“So now we’re just going to let people who can afford to put a Bluetooth in their new car to have the ability to talk when they’re in a car?” Baker responded. “But we’re not going to let anybody else? Hmm. Let me think about that one a little.”

Following the interview, The Boston Herald called on state lawmakers to resume their work to ban handheld cell phones: “Drivers in Massachusetts have proven that when it comes to using their phones behind the wheel they’re incapable of regulating themselves.”

When texting while driving was banned in 2010, texting was the major concern for distracted driving, the Herald wrote. Today, more people have smartphones which offer quick access to social media and other apps.

How Widespread is Texting While Driving in Massachusetts?
Critics say enforcement for Massachusetts’ texting while driving ban is challenging when drivers can hold their phones to talk, but not for other purposes. Police have worked through some of these issues. According to a Boston Globe analysis, Massachusetts police officers wrote 6,131 tickets in 2015, compared to 1,153 in 2011, the first year of the ban. Overall, between late 2010 and mid-April of 2016 when the analysis was published, 18,383 tickets were issued for texting while driving in Massachusetts.

Drivers under 40 years old received the most tickets and many drivers got caught during Distracted Driving Awareness Month, when many local police departments receive safety grants for enforcement.

Where Proposed Legislation Now Stands in Massachusetts

Massachusetts is one of 46 states which have texting while driving laws. Just 14 states also ban handheld cell phone use, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. New Hampshire, Vermont and Connecticut are among the early adopters.

Expect to hear more debate about a handheld cell phone ban in Massachusetts at some point in the future. While Governor Baker has voiced reservations, when the 2017-2018 legislative session began in January, the Massachusetts House of Representatives referred legislation for hands-free cell phone devices to the Legislature’s Joint Committee on Transportation.

Where to Find Distracted Driving Safety Campaigns and Information 

No Cell Phone in Car Pledge

Safety campaigns are critical to preventing distracted driving accidents. There are many out there, offering programs for schools and information online.  One effort is from the Massachusetts Academy of Trial Attorneys (MATA), which brings its “End Distracted Driving” program to high schools. We support this campaign. Two of our partners, Marc L. Breakstone and Ronald E. Gluck, serve on the MATA Board of Governors. Partner David W. White is a long-time member.

Another effort comes from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), which offers this pledge which family members can sign to promise each other they will not use a cell phone while driving.

 

Distracted Driving Prevention and Safety Campaigns:

Distraction.gov: Official U.S. website for distracted driving.

It Can Wait!: AT&T’s documentary to stop distracted driving.

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As students head back to classes, this is a good time for families to talk about cell phones and distracted driving.

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Each day, nine people are killed in the U.S. in crashes involving distracted driving behaviors, such as using a cell phone, texting while driving or eating. More than 1,100 are injured.

There are now 46 states which ban texting while driving, including Massachusetts, which banned the practice in 2010. Junior operators are not allowed to use cell phones at all in Massachusetts.

For Parents

No Cell Phone Rule. Lead by example. Put your cell phone away while driving your children to school. Tell them to put theirs away too because it creates a distraction for you on the roads. Make this a rule for school drop-offs and pick-ups. If you can, extend it to other travel times.

Drop-Off Zone. After you drop your child off at school, resist the urge to immediately check your cell phone in the drop-off zone. Drive away and check later.

Children and Teens

No Cell Phone Use While Commuting. Keep telling your children the cell phone is not for use while commuting to school. Even if they are young and many years away from driving, they can learn now how distracting any cell phone use can be in the car.

Children should not use cell phones while walking or riding bikes to school, either. They can check in with social media, e-mail and text messages at home. If they must, tell them to step several feet off the sidewalk. Make it clear it is not safe to stop in a parking lot.

School Bus. Encourage your child to keep their cell phone packed on the ride so they can be aware of what is going on around them.

Reward Your Child For Not Using a Cell Phone. When your children do as you ask and leave the cell phone packed up, let them know you noticed.

Teen Drivers

Talk to Your Teen Drivers. Take some time to remind them not to use their cell phone behind the wheel. They could seriously injure someone or be stopped by police and face fines and a temporary loss of license.

No Passengers. Do not allow them to carry other teenage passengers with them until they become experienced drivers, and even then they should limit the number of passengers in their cars. Your teenager needs all their energy to focus on the roads and avoid car accidents.

Your teenager may not be happy with your rules, but younger drivers under 25 are two to three times more likely to text or e-mail while driving than others, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. You want to protect your teenager and help them develop safe habits.

Share Safety Materials. Do not be your teen’s only source of information. Occasionally share safety campaign information or news articles about texting while driving with them. One resource is the AT&T It Can Wait campaign.
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20141006-texting.jpgThis month, students at four high schools in Massachusetts will sit down at computer simulators and learn what it feels like to text or use a cell phone while driving and then crash.

This is part of Arbella Insurance Foundation’s Distractology 101 program, which will visit Braintree High School, Phillips Academy in Andover, Falmouth High School and Sacred Heart High School in Kingston. Although the young drivers will not actually suffer or cause injury, or feel the remorse of having caused the collision, they will be taught the lesson that distracted driving behaviors, such as cell phone use, using a GPS and even eating and drinking, can result in car accidents and serious injuries. These behaviors should be considered as or more dangerous than speeding or running a red light.

Consider these statistics from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA):

cellphone-car-300.jpgOne in four drivers admitted to texting while driving in the past month, a new AAA survey reports. While teenagers often get the most blame, this survey found drivers age 25-39 are actually the worst offenders.

Texting while driving is against the law in Massachusetts and 40 other states. But in the new survey, 26 percent of drivers reported sending a text or e-mail while driving in the past month. Among drivers age 25-39, 45 percent admitted to texting or sending an e-mail while driving and 10 percent admitted they did so fairly often.

These drivers were also most likely to drive while talking on a handheld cell phone, with 82 percent admitting to doing so in the past month and 43 percent saying they did it fairly often. Talking on a cell phone while driving is still legal in many states, including Massachusetts, but legislation is pending to restrict that activity.

Drivers 19-24 were second most likely to text while driving, with 42 percent confessing to it at least once in the previous month and 11 percent saying they did it fairly often.

Drivers age 16-18 were third most likely, followed by drivers ages 40-59, then 60 and older. Drivers age 75 and older were the least likely, but even one percent of them admitted to texting and 31 percent admitted to talking on a handheld cell phone while driving in the previous month.

A few notes:

  • One out of 10 fatal car crashes involves distraction, resulting in more than 3,000 deaths per year in the U.S.
  • At any given daylight moment, approximately 660,000 drivers in the U.S. are using cell phones or manipulating electronic devices while driving, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).
  • Using a cell phone while driving quadruples your chance for being involved in a car accident, according to AAA.
  • Talking on a handheld cell phone is banned in 12 states and the District of Columbia. It is legal in Massachusetts and the rest of New England. Cell phone use is restricted for novice drivers in 37 states and the District of Columbia.
  • Texting while driving is banned for drivers in 41 states and the District of Columbia, including Massachusetts. It is also banned in other New England states. Six other states have bans prohibiting novice drivers from texting.
  • Using hands-free devices or infotainment systems is not safer than using handheld cell phones or texting, according to a study by a University of Utah research team. The study last summer tested voice-to-text technology which allows drivers to talk on the phones, send texts and e-mails and use social media without touching a cell phone. The study measured driver alertness using cameras mounted inside the vehicle and diagnostic tools to measure reaction time and brain activity.
  • Researchers ranked voice-to-talk technology as more dangerous than using a handheld cell phone and listening to a radio.

Related:
Map of handheld cell phone bans, Insurance Institute for Highway Safety

Hands-free talking, texting is unsafe, University of Utah

Teens report texting or using phone while driving significantly less often than adults, AAA Continue reading

Texting while drivingDrivers may claim they are not texting behind the wheel. But Massachusetts State Police say that at least 440 of them were doing just that in June.

State Police cited these drivers over three weeks in the Merrimack Valley, part of a federally funded enforcement grant involving 12 communities. Another 509 drivers were ticketed for impeded operation, after being caught engaged in distractions such as reading and grooming while driving.

The numbers are notable as today marks three years since the Safe Driving Law took effect in Massachusetts, placing new restrictions on drivers under 18 years old and banning all drivers from texting while driving. Three years later, how well are you complying with the law?

The law bans texting by drivers, including reading, writing or sending messages. This includes text messages, e-mails and messages sent through social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter. Drivers cannot text while driving or sitting at red lights, intersections or on other public ways. Texting while driving is a primary offense, meaning police can pull drivers over when they suspect the behavior.

The law also covers more than cell phones. It bans communicating through any device while you are driving, including tablet computers and laptops.

Fines for Texting While Driving in Massachusetts
Drivers are permitted to talk on cell phones in Massachusetts. But operators under 18 years old are banned from all cell phone use, a measure passed as part of the Safe Driving Law.

One area of confusion with the texting while driving ban has been the use of GPS, especially GPS apps in smartphones. The Registry of Motor Vehicles reported back in 2010 that such use was not a violation of the law, though State Police said they would use discretion with GPS units and could cite drivers for “unsafe operation.”

Across the country, 41 states ban texting while driving. Fines in Massachusetts drivers are $100 for the first offense, $250 for the second and $500 for third and all subsequent acts. When a driver causes serious injury or death as a result of texting, they can also face criminal charges.

One Massachusetts newspaper has called for more. In today’s edition, the Worcester Telegram & Gazette noted that drivers who violate the law do not face any impact on their license or auto insurance rates and called on the Legislature to strengthen laws.

“To create a true deterrent, lawmakers must strengthen the penalties, particularly for second and subsequent offenses,” the Telegram & Gazette wrote.

Maybe the Legislature will review the law. Enforcement will continue. State Police have launched Phase 2 of their “Text with one hand, ticket in the other,” campaign in the Lowell and Merrimack Valley area.

But the discussion goes beyond a $100 ticket to safety and responsibility on the road. Any cell phone use that takes a driver’s attention off the road is negligent and can cause a car accident resulting in serious injuries or death. So we ask again. Have you complied with the law? Are there are additional steps you could take?

If you have any doubts about safety, or the terrible effects three seconds of inattention might bring, please watch this video: “From One Second To The Next,” by Werner Herzog. It is part of AT&T’s It Can Wait campaign.

Related:
Texting While Driving Crackdown Nets 440, Lowell Sun.

Tougher penalties needed, Worcester Telegram & Gazette.

Safe driving law applies to more than just texting behind the wheel, The Boston Globe.
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Texting while drivingWe suggest parents now talk to your children about the rules for getting to and from school safely. No skipping over the hard part: talking about when everyone, parents and children alike, should put down the cell phone.

Walking to School. Encourage your child to use sidewalks and crosswalks with crossing guards or walk signals. Agree on a route with your child and never let them walk alone. Every year, drive or walk the route yourself so you can identify any problems.

Bicycling. Make sure your child wears a helmet – it’s the law and it’s common sense. While your child has many of the same rights as a driver, remind them to take it slow in parking lots or and when passing cars. They should learn to make eye contact with drivers in their vicinity–that way they can read the intention of the driver more clearly. Read about Massachusetts law for bicyclists.

We want to share a story we heard on NPR this morning. Texting while driving remains one of the leading safety hazards on our roads today, despite years of public service announcements, educational campaigns and media stories of tragedy.

German filmmaker Werner Herzog has now released a new and less traditional public service announcement. In an in-depth 35-minute film, he speaks to victims, families, law enforcement and drivers who made the mistake. In one case, he shows the daughter of a victim reunited with the driver who killed her father. In another case, a woman who was seriously injured by a texting driver faced more than a million dollars in medical bills.

The film is called, “From One Second to the Next,” and can be viewed below. It is part of the AT&T “It Can Wait” campaign.

In the NPR interview, Herzog said: “The message is very, very simple. Don’t text and drive.”


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We all have one: a cell phone we keep close by throughout the day, to keep in touch with work and the people in our lives. Many of us now use smart phones so in addition to talking and texting, we have quick access to apps, cameras and other neat gadgets. The bottom line is we get more use from our mobile phones now than ever.

While the conveniences are nice, they are a negative when it comes to driving. Studies have long shown cell phone use of any type is a distraction which can result in drivers taking their eyes off the road and causing motor vehicle accidents. 

Most states have some restriction on use. The District of Columbia and 39 states, including Massachusetts, ban texting while driving. Ten states and the District of Columbia ban all phone use by drivers. Massachusetts bans all cell phone use for drivers under 18. 

car-night-180.jpgA new study raises the question of whether driving while using a cell phone is the safety risk or a symptom of a larger problem: an aggressive driver with dangerous habits.

Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) found drivers who engaged in frequent cell phone use are higher-risk, even when their phone is out of use. The researchers studied the behavior of 108 Greater Boston drivers. About half admitted to frequent cell phone use while the others said they rarely talked behind the wheel.

The frequent cell phone users tended to drive faster, changed lanes more often and spent more time in the far-left lane. They were also more likely to accelerate rapidly and slam on the breaks.

The data supports the focus on cell phone use: The National Safety Council (NSC) estimates about 1 of 5 car accidents involve drivers who were on the phone.

But researchers say even as the number of cell phones has increased nationwide, the number of car accidents has not, leading to one possible conclusion that drivers who talk behind the wheel are also engaging in other risky behaviors.

Massachusetts is among 39 states which have banned texting while driving. Ten other states ban talking on the phone unless a driver uses a hands-free device. Recently in Massachusetts, lawmakers have considered full cell phone bans to reduce car crashes.

Researchers are investigating whether the answer lies beyond new laws. They are considering retraining programs for drivers which discourage cell phone use and provides warning about other bad habits. Focus is also on auto collision warning systems or sensors which identify when cars cross a lane.

Related:

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