Stricter Distracted-Driver Enforcement Might Make Roads Safer

June 1st, 2018 by Attorney John Colvin

Stricter Distracted-Driver Enforcement Might Make Roads Safer

Since the first cars rolled off the assembly line at the turn of the 20th century, drivers have been faced with a serious challenge: How to stay focused on the road for long stretches. With the development of transportation technology, and without an observant horse as a failsafe, we must now be extra diligent. However, it’s safe to say that in more than a century, we humans haven’t quite figured out how to keep our attention squarely on driving.

As a result, states have established laws that enable enforcement officials to issue citations to distracted drivers. For instance, texting while driving in Tennessee is illegal and considered a Class C misdemeanor, which usually comes with a $50 fine for a first offense. Yet drivers could be hit with a much heftier amount if an officer decides to process the offense under the state’s “Due Care” law.

Of course, even financial fallout doesn’t seem to keep people from checking their emails, scrolling through playlists, eating fast food, or reaching for a fallen baby’s toy in the back seat while navigating I-24 or I-65. That’s why many people are promoting stricter enforcement across the nation to combat distracted driving before it turns deadly.

The Inverse Correlation Between Driver Fines and Highway Safety

Recent figures from a Safewise.com report show that the more tickets issued for distracted driving, the lower the likelihood of road fatalities. In other words, there appears to be a correlation between officers diligently citing distracted drivers and a plummeting incidence of highway deaths.

In Tennessee, vehicle accidents claim the lives of approximately 1,000 persons every year, earning the state a place in the top 15 states ranked by traffic fatalities per capita. Beyond the emotional devastation any fatality or serious crash causes, the impact has a practical one throughout the community. Statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) illustrate the economic impact: Each year, more than $1 billion goes toward paying for costs associated with motor vehicle crashes.

It’s not hyperbole to suggest that even a bit of improvement in those data points would significantly change lives for the better.

How to Stop the Distracted Driving Phenomenon

Obviously, people aren’t policing themselves well at all, nor are their passengers helping them steer clear of distractions. When surveyed by AAA, respondents admitted they were worried about the rise in distracted driving, but simultaneously said they recently texted, talked on the phone, or engaged in other actions while operating a motor vehicle. In other words, everyone’s aware of the issue, but we’re at a loss when it comes to figuring out how to keep ourselves in check.

Consequently, it seems only fitting that if officers remain vigilant in the task of catching drivers in the act, they can not only save more lives but also keep money flowing into the local economies in positive ways. Plus, they’ll help groom a new generation of emerging car owners, the so-called Generation Z, who find technology so native that they don’t think of it as distracting at all. As Safewise.com pointed out in its aforementioned study, drivers between the ages of 15 and 19 represent the highest population of distracted operators. If their poor driving habits can be caught early, everyone will win.

While it’s never enjoyable to be pulled over by a police officer who catches you mulling over a text from your colleague or significant other, consider it a wake-up call instead of a penalty. It’s much better to be alive and faced with even a $300 fine than to become yet another statistic.

For more than 20 years, Attorney John R. Colvin has helped clients who have been injured in motor vehicle accidents, including those involving distracted drivers. He welcomes individuals seeking counsel on all personal injury-related situations and offers complimentary initial consultations. Please contact the office to set up a no-obligation consultation.

Licensed to Practice in Tennessee & Alabama