Distracted driving is a serious problem throughout the United States, including Louisiana. For people with busy schedules, cell phones and other devices are a great way to stay connected with work and family. But using these devices behind the wheel of a car is more dangerous than many people realize.
Distracted driving can be caused by any non-driving activity undertaken by the driver, including adjusting the radio, combing hair, putting on makeup or eating a cheeseburger behind the wheel. But the proliferation of smart phones over the last decade has added a whole new layer of potential distraction.
According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, 3,328 deaths and about 421,000 injuries resulted from distracted driving in 2012. Young drivers are most at risk. Twenty-seven percent of the drivers who were distracted at the time of a fatal car accident were under age 20, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Ten percent of all teenage drivers in fatal car accidents were reportedly distracted when the crash occurred.
Texting and driving is by far the most hazardous form of distracted driving. Driver take five seconds, on average, to send or receive a text message. During those five seconds when the driver's eyes are off the road, a car going 55 m.p.h. travels the length of a football field.
Louisiana has enacted some laws to discourage distracted driving. Texting and driving is illegal for all drivers. In addition, drivers with an intermediate license or learner's permit are restricted to hand-held cell phones. Drivers under age 17 are prohibited from using any wireless communications device, hand-held or not, while driving.
Getting a ticket isn't the only penalty. Driving while distracted can be negligent. Anyone who is injured in an accident caused by a distracted driver has the right to sue that driver for monetary damages.
Source: Distraction.gov, "Facts and Statistics," accessed Feb. 15, 2015