Harvard Professor Touting Tougher Penalties For Texting And Driving

The Chicago Tribune published a fantastic interview with Jay Winsten, an associate dean of the Harvard School of Public Health, regarding his role in the creation of the designated driver and now his push prevent distracted driving. You can read the entire interview here.

Two things stand out in this interview for me. The first is that Professor Winsten points out that texting and driving continues to grow in this country because it doesn’t have the stigma that drinking and driving does. “There’s absolutely no social stigma connected with distracted driving today—unlike drunk driving, which took years to develop that social stigma. And Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), starting in 1980, had a lot to do with that. But today, you know, if someone asks me at a cocktail party what I’m working on, and I say distracted driving, they’ll laugh and talk about their own behavior and how they’ll have to change because they themselves are a distracted driver. There’s no stigma of any kind associated with it. . .”

The professor is absolutely right. Plus, he points out that not everyone drinks, let alone drinks and drives. On the other hand, almost everyone has a smart phone, young and old, and people have trouble putting them down.

The second point he makes is that anti-texting laws are difficult to enforce, thus people aren’t afraid to pick the phones up when behind the wheel.

So what is his solution? The first is to push for better technology. Technology (maybe an app) that will tract you phone usage while driving. Technology that could possibly limit your phone usage while driving. His other suggestion is a second round of legislation. Legislation with tougher fines and stricter enforcement. I’m going to pat myself on the back here, but this is something I’ve been writing about for at least 5 years. I have said over and over on this blog, that the laws against texting and driving need to have teeth. Legislators need to consider making texting and driving a Class A misdemeanor, which is the same as a first time DUI offense. I don’t necessarily believe all texting and driving offenders should be charged at that level, but at least in situations that result in traffic accidents, or personal injury.

Finally, Professor Winsten is pushing for another awareness campaign, similar to the designated driver ads we saw in the 1980s. With the help of Hollywood, he believes this could be just as effective in curbing distracted driving.

If you or someone you love has been injured in a Chicago car accident or Chicago truck accident, then call Chicago personal injury lawyer, Aaron J. Bryant, for a free legal consultation at 312-614-1076.

Chicago Aldermen Propose Use Of “Textalyzer” By City Police

The Chicago Tribune reported this week that two Chicago Aldermen are interested in new traffic technology called a Textalyzer, a device developed by Israeli company Cellebrite — which can access a phone’s operating system to check whether it was being used to text, email or perform other functions. Its name is a play on the Breathalyzer, which can help determine whether a driver is legally drunk.

Ald. Ed Burke, 14th, and Ald. Anthony Beale, 9th, on Wednesday introduced a resolution calling on the Police Department to appear before a City Council committee “to address the use of emerging technology, such as a Textalyzer, in enforcing the city’s existing traffic laws or the investigation of vehicle accidents.”

I have written on the dangers of texting and driving on this site ad nauseum through the years, as I believe it has been proven that distracted driving is an epidemic in this country. Far too many people text and drive and it is causing serious traffic accidents and sometimes traffic fatalities. My problem with this proposal is that it calls into question whether this type of technology invades on peoples 4th amendment right to privacy. Specifically, the constitutional right against illegal search and seizures. Many people do not realize that when stopped by policy they do not have to submit to a breathalyzer or other sobriety tests. Further, people have the right refuse an officer’s request to search their vehicles. Although, it must be noted that if an officer believes there is probable cause for a search they can go ahead and do so (though anything found in such a search could be subject to the Court’s scrutiny as to whether the search was legal). The point here is whether police should have the right to seize a drivers phone and perform a “Textalyzer” analysis to determine if the driver had been using the phone at the time of the crash? I don’t believe so. It could be argued that the phone could be seized if there is overwhelming evidence that the phone was being used prior to the stop (i.e. the officer saw the driver typing into the phone while driving or the phone was in the drivers lap following a car accident).

These are all questions that need to be answered prior to the city moving forward and handing over this technology to police officers. I do not believe the City Council should rubber stamp this technology without a careful determination of the constitutional implications. Further, there is the question of whether this type of technology would be a deterrent for drivers to use their phones while behind the wheel.

If you or someone you love has been seriously injured in a Chicago car crash or Chicago truck accident, then call Chicago personal injury lawyer, Aaron J. Bryant, for a free legal consultation.

U.S. Traffic Deaths Highest Since 2007

The National Safety Counsel reported today that there were 40,200, a 6 percent gain from 2015 and up 14 percent from 2014. This is the first time since 2007 that traffic fatalities exceeded 40,000 in U.S.

As I wrote last month, this is a disturbing trend due advances in auto safety technology that has been introduced in the last ten years. The increase in traffic deaths have been previously blamed on more drivers being on the road due to an improved economy. I believe that this was a legitimate hypothesis for 2012 through 2014 but it doesn’t explain why number keeps increasing.

As I previously discussed last month, the only conclusion I can come to is that people continue to use their phones while behind the wheel. The The National Safety Council, a nonprofit safety advocacy group,  released survey that support this conclusion. Their survey findings showed that 47 percent of motorists are comfortable texting while driving. Some 10 percent of drivers reported driving drunk, and 43 percent of them were involved in a crash while impaired, the group said. The survey also found that 16 percent said they don’t wear seatbelts on every trip, while 25 percent are comfortable speeding on residential streets.

To stem the tide, the group renewed a call for a total ban on mobile phone use behind the wheel, even hands-free systems. It also called for mandatory ignition interlocks for convicted drunk drivers, a three-tiered driver licensing system for all new drivers under 21 and other steps to curb car crashes.

I can’t say that I agree with the ban on hands free devices, but I am still convinced that there needs to be stiffer penalties on those who text and drive. This is especially true when the phone use results in a car crash that results in a personal injury.

If you or someone you love has been seriously injured in a Chicago car crash or Chicago truck accident, call Chicago personal injury lawyer, Aaron J. Bryant, for a free legal consultation at 312-614-1076.

 

NHTSA: Traffic Fatalities Up 8% In 2016

The National Highway and Traffic Safety Administration (“NHTSA”) announced some unfortunate news in a press release last week that traffic fatalities were up 8% last year from the year before for the first nine months of each year. The agency’s statistical projection found an estimated 27,875 people died in vehicle accidents during that time in 2016, while 25,808 fatalities were reported for that same period in 2015. Also, the fatality rate for 2016’s first nine months increased to 1.15 fatalities per 100 million vehicle miles traveled. That represents an increase from 1.10 fatalities per 100 million vehicle miles traveled during the first nine months of 2015. The agency noted it relied on the same methodology used to generate the estimates for the first nine months of 2016 as it did to record the fatalities for 2015.

The various articles I have read don’t seem to point any specific reason why. The discouraging news is that these numbers are coming off a year where traffic deaths increased 7% in 2015 over 2014. Experts believe the increased travel is mostly a result of an improved economy and low gas prices. But NHTSA’s data experts said increased travel and a better economy alone can’t explain the rise in deaths. “We still have to figure out what is underlying those lives lost,” NHTSA Administrator Mark Rosekind said. “If it was simple, we would already know that.”

The increase in deaths is especially concerning because it has happened at time when cars are safer than ever. Nearly all new cars and light trucks now have electronic stability control and rearview cameras, for example. Automakers are also beginning to equip more cars with sophisticated safety technology like adaptive cruise control, automatic emergency-braking and blind-spot monitoring.

So what is the answer? The NHTSA isn’t giving us any plausible explanation. My own theory is that people continue to use their phones when driving. They continue to text and not take advantage of hands-free technology. I think this will continue to be the case as long as the penalties for texting and driving are weak. In my opinion, if an injury occurs from an accident where texting and driving was the cause, then the case needs to be treated like a DUI. At the very least the driver needs to be charged with a Class A misdemeanor. Without significant repercussions, drivers will not be deterred from typing on their phones while driving. This is the only explanation I can come up with as to why traffic fatalities have continued to rise the last two years.

If you or someone you love has been injured in a Chicago car crash or Chicago truck accident, then call Chicago personal injury lawyer, Aaron J. Bryant, for a free legal consultation at 312-614-1076.

 

AT&T Taking Virtual ‘It Can Wait App’ To High School Students

The dangers of texting and driving has been well documented by media the last five years. I have discussed the topic on this blog dozens of times. I have opined again and again that the penalties for texting and driving should be increased, especially in the instance where there is an injured party. The reasoning is similar to the drunk driving laws some thirty years ago. The penalties for drinking and driving for a long time in most states were the equivalent to a slap on the wrist. It wasn’t until interest groups pressured lawmakers to increase penalties, did we finally see heftier fines and jail time for drinking and driving throughout every state. Safety advocates have been pushing for the same changes to texting and driving laws.

I have to hand it to AT&T for their recent efforts to prevent texting and driving. Their “It Can Wait” campaign, which can be found all over television and social media has been incredibly effective. Further, AT&T is now going into schools and showing students first-hand the dangers of texting and driving.  The new app ‘It Can Wait” takes students on a 3D virtual reality tour of the dangers that can occur from looking at a cell phone while driving. The app “It Can Wait” can be downloaded on all IOS and Android phones. The virtual app reveals just how dangerous texting and driving is, and more importantly how quickly drivers can lose control of their vehicle when they look at their phone just for a second. I applaud AT&T for putting their money where their mouth is. This company reaps millions in profits for selling their services and smart phones, but at the same time is making a concerted effort to show how dangerous their devices can be if not used properly.

Click here to view what teen drivers are seeing through the virtual app.

If you or someone you love has been injured in Chicago car accident or Chicago truck accident, then call Chicago personal injury lawyer, Aaron J. Bryant, for a free legal consultation at 312-614-1076.

National Safety Council Reports Traffic Deaths Up In 2015

The National Safety Council announced last week that traffic fatalities are up 14% so far this year and that injuries related to traffic accidents are up 33%.

The Council has deduced that a robust economy and lower gas prices have put more people on the road, which in turn leads to more car accidents. If the trend continues, traffic deaths this year could exceed 40,000 for the first time since 2007, when there were nearly 44,000 deaths.

The Council did note that in recent years drunk driving fatalities have dropped about 20%, teen car accidents are down and seat belt use is up. The question remains is whether the increase in fatalities is due solely on a booming economy and low gas prices? The Council believed this is the main reason, but also blames the increase in speed limits in many states along with the continued number of distracted drivers. Despite multiple distracted driving campaigns on the state and federal level, more people are taking cell phone calls and texting on their phones while driving.

So we have the most amount of drivers on the road since 2007 plus more people using their cell phones while driving at faster rates. This is a dangerous combination which has led to this increase in traffic deaths. Like I have written numerous times in the past, until states stiffen the penalties for texting and driving, we will not see the numbers of traffic fatalities and serious traffic injuries drop.

If you or someone you love has been seriously injured in a Chicago car accident or Chicago truck accident, then call Chicago personal injury lawyer, Aaron Bryant, for a free legal consultation at 312-614-1076.

Wisconsin Woman Accused Of Using Facebook At Time Of Car Crash That Killed 3

The Chicago Tribune reported last month that the driver of who was involved in a car crash that killed three (3) children may have been chatting on Facebook with her phone right before the accident.

Cellphone records show that the driver was sending and receiving Facebook chat messages just before the crash, Pierce County investigators allege.  Authorities believe driver inattention contributed to the Dec. 12, 2013, car crash on Wisconsin Highway 35 near Prescott.

The woman’s SUV collided with a truck after she apparently lost control on a curve. The woman’s 11 year old daughter and two 5 year old nieces died from injuries in the car crash. The truck driver and his two (2) passengers were not injured in the accident.

I have not written about distracted driving in quite some time but this is still a pervasive problem in this country. Studies have shown that texting or emailing while driving can be just as dangerous as drinking and driving. A lack of focus for a second or two is all it takes for a car accident to occur. Texting and driving has been banned in Illinois but questions remain as to whether penalties a harsh enough. I believe if it is found that the texting was the cause of an accident, and there was an injured party, then there needs to be tougher penalties. I believe that texting and driving that causes an injury should be treated the same as a DUI, which is a Class A misdemeanor in Illinois. Class A misdemeanors in Illinois can be punishable up to a year in jail.

If you or someone you love has been injured in Chicago car accident or Chicago truck accident, then call Chicago personal injury lawyer, Aaron Bryant, for a free legal consultation at 312-614-1076.

Is Siri Just As Dangerous As Texting And Driving?

A new study by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety calls into question the safety of hands-free technology used by drivers. According to a news release posted by AAA last month, dangerous mental distractions exist even when drivers keep their hands on the wheel and their eyes on the road.

The study revealed the following findings regarding the distractions drivers create for themselves while behind the wheel:

  • Tasks such as listening to the radio ranked as a category “1” level of distraction or a minimal risk.
  • Talking on a cell-phone, both handheld and hands-free, resulted in a “2” or a moderate risk.
  • Listening and responding to in-vehicle, voice-activated email features increased mental workload and distraction levels of the drivers to a “3” rating or one of extensive risk.

“These findings reinforce previous research that hands-free is not risk-free,” said AAA Foundation President and CEO Peter Kissinger. “Increased mental workload and cognitive distractions can lead to a type of tunnel vision or inattention blindness where motorists don’t see potential hazards right in front of them.”

AAA is the front runner on this type of research and stated in their press release that legislative action should be considered, much like the ban on texting and driving. They suggest that voice automated technology should be limited to core related driving functions such as climate control and windshield wipers. They also suggest that there should be a ban on voice to text technology related to social media, text messages and emails.

If this research is accurate (which I believe it is), then AAA is at the forefront here and their suggestions should be listened to. To me it makes sense that voice to text functions such as emails, texts and tweets are a distraction and dangerous because drivers often times look down at their phone to check and make sure their texts or emails are accurate.

It will be interesting to see if any states or the federal government takes any action to limit voice to text technology. It could save lives.

If you or someone you love has been involved in a Chicago car accident or Chicago truck accident, then call Chicago personal injury lawyer, Aaron Bryant, for a free legal consultation at 312-614-1076.

Illinois State Police Cracking Down On Distracted Driving

The
Chicago Sun-Times
 reported
recently on the efforts of the Illinois State Police to crack down on
distracted driving, including a warning issued to a man who was shaving while
driving down the Kennedy Expressway. Yes, just like texting, shaving while
driving is distracting and can cause auto accidents. Spotters were looking down
on the southbound lanes of the Kennedy at both Montrose and Addison, alerting
other troopers which cars to stop. One trooper also was shooting video of
distracted drivers, said Illinois State Police Lt. David Byrd.  135 motorists were ticketed for distracted driving
between 7 a.m. and 9:30 a.m. in one morning last month, said Monique Bond, a
spokeswoman for the Illinois State Police. The tickets carry a $120 fine.

Electronic
signs on the Kennedy warn drivers of the anti-texting operation. A Chicago
ordinance bans drivers from talking on their phones, but state police don’t
enforce it, Byrd said. State troopers will enforce a statewide ban when it
takes effect Jan. 1, he said.

That’s right. Starting
January 1, 2014, a state-wide ban of hand held devices while driving goes into
effect. This will require any driver to use a blue to tooth or hands free phone
device when driving.

If you or someone you love
has been injured in a Chicago car crash or Chicago traffic accident, then call
Chicago personal injury attorney Aaron Bryant for a free legal consultation at
312-588-3384. 

Major Cell Phone Providers Join Together For Anti-Texting And Driving Campaign

AT&T is stepping up
to plate again to campaign against texting and driving. As I have written here
in the past, AT&T has launched campaigns before on this issue, but this
time they are being joined by other major carriers such as Verizon, Sprint, T-Mobile US, Inc. and more than 200
other organizations. As ABC News in Chicago reported this week, the new
campaign is titled “It Can Wait.” The
 new national advertising campaign, a nationwide
texting-while-driving simulator tour, retail presence in tens of thousands of
stores, and outreach to millions of consumers with a special focus throughout
the summer months between Memorial Day and Labor Day-known as the 100 Deadliest
Days on the roads for teen drivers.1 The 2013 campaign drive will culminate on
Sept. 19, when efforts turn towards encouraging everyone to get out in their
community and advocate involvement on behalf of the movement.

The
campaign kicks off May 20, with AT&T, Verizon, Sprint and T-Mobile bringing
a multi-million dollar, co-branded advertising campaign to raise awareness of
the dangers of texting and driving, and encouraging everyone to immediately
take the pledge against it at www.itcanwait.com www.itcanwait.com. The
campaign will focus on the stories of people who are living with the
consequences of texting while driving. Their stories will be told through
various media including TV, radio, digital and social. The first story in the
campaign will be of Xzavier Davis-Bilbo, who in 2010 at five-years-old, was
struck while crossing the street by a young woman texting while driving-leaving
him paralyzed from the waist down.

Also,
government agencies including the U.S. Department of Transportation, National
Highway Traffic Safety Administration and National Transportation Safety Board
have all committed to help end distracted driving and support the efforts of It
Can Wait and others who are working to raise awareness.

This is
the first time that all the cell phone carriers have joined together and
focused on this issue with one major advertising campaign. I think they need to
applauded as we all know texting and driving is a major issue in this country.
But, I will state again, the danger of texting and driving will not go away
until stricter laws are enacted by individual states. Specifically, there need
to be higher fines when someone is caught texting and driving. If someone is
injured in a car accident where it can shown that texting and driving was the
cause, then there needs to be the threat of jail time. In other words, the
charge needs to be raised to a misdemeanor (Class A in Illinois), similar to a
DUI.

If you
or someone you love has been involved in a Chicago car crash or Chicago truck accident, then call Chicago personal injury attorney Aaron Bryant for a free legal consultation at 312-588-3384.