“Phone in One Hand, Ticket in the Other” Crackdown a Tepid Response to a Deadly Distracted Driving Epidemic

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“Phone in One Hand, Ticket in the Other” Crackdown a Tepid Response to a Deadly Distracted Driving Epidemic

The State of Delaware announced yesterday that there will be a crackdown in effect between November 7 and November 20, 2012, on distracted cell-phone using drivers. According to a press release by the State of Delaware, the Delaware Office of Highway Safety has teamed up with the U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), and 42 law enforcement agencies across the State to eliminate handheld cell phone use and texting by motorists traveling on Delaware’s roadways.

“Our new dedicated enforcement campaign, Phone in One Hand. Ticket in the Other. will offer a tough lesson to any driver caught paying attention to their phones instead of the road,” said Lewis D. Schiliro, Secretary of Safety and Homeland Security.

Distracted driving = death sentence

Well, it’s about time, but does this campaign go far enough? Delaware law prohibits texting while driving and speaking on a handheld cell phone while driving. But it sure doesn’t seem like the law is being enforced. Most days, I drive from my home in Wilmington to our main offices in Dover – an hour to work and an hour home. I see other drivers texting and talking on their cell phones the entire way to work and the entire way home (at least I did before we set the clocks back). While I’m at the office, most of my time is spent prosecuting personal injury and wrongful death cases on behalf of injured people and the families of those killed by distracted, negligent drivers.

Each year, THOUSANDS of people forfeit their lives to distracted drivers. In Delaware alone last year, there were 13 fatal crashes and more than 1,200 injury crashes as a result of distracted driving. Most of the cases we handle are the result of distracted or inattentive driving. In the last week, I have worked on three separate motorcycle accident cases. In each case, our client was riding a bike. A car or pickup truck hit them because the driver didn’t see them. In one case, our client died.

In two cases, our clients lived but sustained terrible injuries – broken bones, broken necks and backs. What did they die for? What did they get injured for? If there was a flu bug-killing, 3,000 American citizens, each year and injuring hundreds of thousands, the CDC would be raising hell, and you would be seeing stories on every show on TV, from Good Morning America to Saturday Night Live. According to the CDC website, in 2009, more than 5,400 people died in crashes that were reported to involve a distracted driver and about 448,000 people were injured. Among those killed or injured in these crashes, nearly 1,000 deaths and 24,000 injuries included cell phone use as the major distraction.

Why is this crackdown only lasting from November 7 to 20? It should be mandatory for all law enforcement officers – if you see a driver talking on a handheld phone or texting, you must stop them and ticket them unless you are responding to an emergency.

Distracted driving is an epidemic, and should be treated like one for more than two weeks a year.

Ben Schwartz

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