Driver distractions or inattentive driving play a part in roughly one out of every four motor vehicle crashes. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's latest data, dated 2016, 3,450 people were killed in distraction-affected crashes. Text messaging, changing radio stations, even turning around to talk to passengers can prove deadly.
While cellphones and text messaging cause the most accidents, drivers are also distracted by using PDAs, laptops and navigational aids while driving. Other drivers create a potential hazard because they eat, drink, read, write or groom themselves when their full attention should be on the road in front of them.
Employers May Be Held Liable
Employers are now concerned that they may be held liable for accidents caused by their employees while driving and conducting work-related conversations on cellphones, according to the I.I.I. Under the doctrine of vicarious responsibility, employers may be held legally accountable for the negligent acts of employees committed in the course of employment. Employers may also be found negligent if they fail to put in place a policy for the safe use of cellphones.
The I.I.I. recommends the following safety tips when driving:
- Pull Off the Road - Don't drive while calling or texting; pull off the road to a safe location.
- Use Speed Dialing - Program frequently called numbers and your local emergency number into the speed dial feature of your phone for easy, one-touch dialing. When available, use auto answer or voice-activated dialing.
- Never Dial While Driving - If you must dial manually, do so only when stopped. Pull off the road, or better yet, have a passenger dial for you. • Take a Message - Let your voice mail pick up your calls in tricky driving situations. It's easy-and safer-to retrieve your messages later on.
- Know When to Stop Talking - Keep conversations on the phone and in the car brief so you can concentrate on your driving. If a long discussion is required, if the topic is stressful or emotional, or if driving becomes hazardous, end your conversation and continue it once you are off the road.
- Keep the Phone in Its Holder - Make sure your phone is securely in its holder when you are not using it so it does not pop out and distract you when you are driving.
- Don't Take Notes While Driving - If you need to write something down, use a tape recorder or pull off the road.
- Don't Eat or Drink While Driving - Spills, both hot and cold, can easily cause an accident. If you have to stop short, you could also be severely burned.
- Groom Yourself At Home - Shaving, putting on makeup, combing your hair or other forms of preening are distractions and should be done at home, not while driving.