Despite texting ban, distracted driving remains a threat in Alaska

Alaska has notoriously strict laws against texting while driving. Simply texting while at the wheel can result in up to one year in prison and a $10,000 fine. People who cause harm to others while texting and driving in Anchorage can face much more serious sanctions. However, even though these laws are tough, they may not be adequately deterring texting or addressing other risky forms of distraction.

Dangerous driving habits

Since the state's texting ban passed, there have been various high-profile accidents involving drivers who were likely texting. For example, according to KTVA News, one fatal distraction-related accident occurred when an inattentive driver ran a red light. The driver had received four phone calls and 14 texts during the 32 minutes prior to the crash. Since one text arrived just a minute before the crash occurred, authorities believe distraction played a role in the accident.

Sadly, many drivers in Alaska may endanger others without even breaking state laws. It is currently legal for people in Alaska to use handheld or hands-free cellphones while driving. Research from the National Safety Council indicates that drivers show various significant impairments while using either type of device, including:

  • They fail to process their surroundings, including traffic signals and other road users. Drivers who are talking on cell phones may fail to take in 50 percent of the visual cues in front of them.
  • They are less adept at navigating and judging the position of objects in their environments. Brain scans show that activity in the region of the brain that handles these tasks drops when people listen to language.
  • They are dangerously slow to respond to stimuli. One study found that, in terms of reaction time, legally intoxicated drivers actually out-performed distracted drivers during a simulation.

Although using a cell phone to talk or navigate might seem less distracting than texting while driving, it still creates cognitive distraction. By requiring the brain to juggle tasks, cognitive distraction can affect judgment, response time and overall performance. As a result, mentally demanding distractions can create the same dangerous performance impairments as texting.

Overlooked sources of distraction

Even when drivers don't engage in clearly dangerous activities, such as texting while driving, distraction may still cause many accidents. Activities such as eating, adjusting vehicle controls and attending to children can all contribute to these accidents. Last April, as KTUU News reports, one Alaska driver drifted from his lane while simply looking at an object next to the road. The driver collided head-on with another vehicle, totaling both vehicles and injuring the second driver.

In many of these cases, legal recourse may be available to accident victims. In crashes involving cell phone use, official records may help prove that the other driver was distracted. In other cases, police reports or witness statements might show that the other driver was at fault. To learn more about potential legal remedies and cases where compensation may be available, accident victims should consult an attorney.