Many motorists in Ponca City, Oklahoma, have noticed that distracted driving has been a common topic of research, laws and safety campaigns. Despite the widespread attention and concern, the behavior remains a serious threat to public safety; according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, distracted driving accidents resulted in 3,328 fatalities and over 421,000 injuries in 2012 alone.
Texting while driving is one especially notorious and dangerous form of distracted driving that has been outlawed in many states. Unfortunately, Oklahoma lawmakers recently declined to pass a bill banning texting while driving, according to Oklahoma's News 9. This decision leaves residents exposed to a significant and entirely unnecessary risk every time they get behind the wheel.
FAST FACTS ON TEXTING AND DRIVING
Any form of driver distraction has the potential to be deadly, but numerous studies have shown that texting is particularly risky. An American Automobile Association press release reports that drivers who use any kind of handheld phone are 4 times more likely to get into a serious crash that causes injuries, while drivers who text are 23 times more likely to crash than non-distracted drivers.
It's not difficult to see why texting increases accident risk. Texting takes drivers' eyes away from the road, engages them cognitively and requires them to complete a manual task. As AAA notes, a driver who texts while traveling at 55 miles per hour will, on average, look away from the road for 4.6 seconds, which is long enough for the vehicle to travel the length of a football field.
Despite these risks, for the fifth year in a row, Oklahoma legislators turned down a bill to ban texting while driving. Lawmakers who opposed the bill thought that singling out a specific form of distracted driving was unnecessary, even though research suggests texting is one of the most dangerous forms of distraction.
THE TOLL ON OKLAHOMA DRIVERS
The number of Oklahomans affected by distracted driving accidents is not trivial. News 9 reports the following figures for 2013:
- More than 2,000 motorists were involved in crashes involving distracted drivers.
- More than 700 injuries resulted from these accidents.
- At least 10 people were killed in an accident involving a distracted driver.
Most alarmingly, these figures may not represent the full scope of the issue. According to the National Safety Council, under-reporting of crashes involving cellphones is a common issue. Drivers who caused accidents while using cellphones may deny their actions and authorities may not pursue the issue if cellphone use is not a direct violation of state laws. One NSC review of fatal injury cases found that, even when cellphone use was known to play a role in accidents, only 52 percent of those accidents were recorded as crashes that involved cellphones.
This research suggests that texting and other forms of distracted driving may be even more of an issue in Oklahoma than the statistics indicate. Sadly, in the absence of a new law, many more Oklahoma motorists may be hurt by the reckless actions of other drivers.
If you or a loved one has been harmed in an accident involving a distracted driver, please consider meeting with an attorney to discuss your options for seeking compensation.