Motorists Still Not Getting the Message About Distracted Driving

Distracted driving is considered by some lawmakers and safety advocates to have reached "epidemic" proportions in America today. Local, state and national media outlets are shining a light on the dangers of driving while distracted by electronic gadgets, heated conversations, personal grooming or eating, but motorists don't seem willing to stop this dangerous behavior.

A recent report issued by the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA) - called Curbing Distracted Driving: the 2010 Survey of State Safety Programs - reveals the shocking toll that distracted driving takes on America's roadways. In 2008, the most recent year for which crash data is available, there were more than half a million (515,000) motor vehicle accident injuries blamed on some form of driver distraction. Nearly 6,000 of those injuries proved fatal.

The GHSA report details efforts by states around the country to stem the tide of distracted driving-related accidents. Some states have been more aggressive than others with legislative action aimed at discouraging distracted driving. California, Texas, Ohio and dozens of other states have included distracted drivers as a line item in their state's Strategic Highway Safety Plan. Others have banned the use of all handheld electronic devices - including mobile phones, laptops, tablets and even GPS - behind the wheel in an effort to prevent accidents.

Alaska's lawmakers have not been as aggressive in their approach to make the roads safer from distracted drivers, but they have taken steps in the right direction. The state now bans the sending or reading of text messages while behind the wheel. The state hasn't gone as far as some others and issued a blanket ban on using electronic devices while driving, though.

The Alaska Highway Safety Office is determined to get the word out about the dangers of distracted driving. A public education campaign seeks to remind drivers of a few basic rules of the road that can help keep everyone safer:

  • Stay focused on the road ahead, resisting the temptation to look down to retrieve dropped objects or turn to reach something in the back seat
  • Don't drive while fatigued
  • Avoid alcohol, drugs (even prescription ones that might affect your reaction times) and any other mood-altering substances when you have to drive
  • Limit extended interaction with passengers and other motorists whenever possible

Hopefully the roads of Alaska will be safe throughout the busy summer season, but statistically, that is unlikely. If you or a loved one has been injured by a distracted driver, contact an Alaska personal injury attorney to learn more about your legal rights and options.