Zuba & Associates, P.C.

Study casts doubt on the effectiveness of distracted driving laws

The use of cellphones and other electronic devices by drivers is prohibited in Illinois, but a study released recently by a startup technology firm from California suggests that distracted driving laws actually do very little to make the nation's roads safer. After analyzing anonymized data gathered from its customers, San Francisco-based Zendrive found that cellphone use by motorists rose in 2017 in virtually every state. The figures also indicate that distracted drivers may be a far more severe road safety hazard than government agencies like the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration believe.

According to figures released by NHTSA, about 660,000 motorists use cell phones while driving each day. However, Zendrive believes that this number dramatically underestimates the scale of the problem. The technology company puts the number of distracted drivers at 69 million, which indicates that six out of 10 drivers in the United States engage in this hazardous behavior on a daily basis. Motorists in Mississippi are America's most distracted according to the Zendrive study and spend almost 8 percent of their time, or about five minutes each hour, looking at electronic devices.

Lawmakers in Illinois and 14 other states have responded to the alarming rise in distracted driving by banning the use of cellphones and other devices by drivers, but the data strongly suggests that this type of legislation has little effect. Washington has one of the strictest distracted driving laws in the country and motorists in the Evergreen State can be cited for just touching a cellphone, but that was not enough to prevent an alarming 37 percent year-over-year increase in cellphone use. However, rigorous policing does seem to be effective. Law enforcement agencies in Rhode Island have made distracted driving a priority, and cellphone use by motorists in the state fell from 7.42 percent in 2016 to 6.54 percent in 2017 as a result.

Experienced personal injury attorneys may choose to litigate cases involving distracted drivers who have caused serious injury or death even when prosecutors have concluded that the evidence does not merit criminal prosecution. This is because attorneys in civil court are not expected to meet the same standards of proof as criminal prosecutors and lawsuits are decided based on the preponderance of the evidence.

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