Texting takes a deadly toll in our law firm, in Iowa and across the nation

In March 2014, TV station KCCI reported on a tragic accident which took place on Highway 65 near Indianola, Iowa. A car slammed into a tractor-trailer. One person was taken to the hospital with injuries while a toddler died. The accident occurred due to the fact that the car driver looked away from the road for just a moment after becoming distracted. In that moment, according to the Iowa State Patrol, the car went across the center line and hit the semi.

Distracted driving takes a terrible toll across the nation each year. According to the Iowa Department of Public Safety, over 6,000 people are killed each year while at least 500,000 more are injured in distracted-driving crashes. Iowa's DPS says that "one of the most alarming and widespread forms of distracted driving is cell phone usage." One report cited by the DPS suggested that more than one out every four motor vehicle accidents could be caused by people talking on the cell phone or sending text messages.

The State University of New York at Potsdam reports that a British study found that texting behind the wheel is more dangerous than driving after having smoked marijuana. Further, driving a vehicle while texting is more dangerous than driving while intoxicated. The University says that sending or receiving a text will take a driver's eyes off the road for an average of 4.6 seconds. If one is driving at 55 m.p.h., taking one's eyes off the road for 4.6 seconds would be equivalent of driving the length of a football field while blindfolded.

The Des Moines Register recently published a story stating that texting made the chance of an accident 23 times greater because it takes a driver's mind off driving and his or her eyes off the road. Drivers who text have a significantly slower reaction time in responding to changing road conditions and traffic control signs.

Damage hits close to home

These catastrophes also hit close to home. Almost all the time we are helping the victim of the inattentive and distracted driver. But in September 2012, Channing's daughter, Anne Dutton, was critically injured by a distracted cab driver in Baltimore, Maryland. She was crossing the street in broad daylight, pulling a luggage bag behind her. Somehow the cab driver lost track of a tall young woman within the crosswalk, and hit her, causing severe injuries to her pelvis, shoulder, and generalized body trauma. After many months of recovery, Anne was able to resume her life but now has constant companions of pins and screws which remind her of their presence every time the weather turns cold. Not all families are so lucky. Not all recoveries go as well.

Iowa acts to address the problem

TV Station KWWL reported that the DPS and the Iowa State Patrol intend to crackdown on distracted drivers in 2014. The reason for the crackdown is that over the past 10 years distracted-driving accidents have skyrocketed. A state trooper interviewed for the story reiterated that while cell phone usage was the number one distracted driving concern, other behaviors can be equally distracting such as eating, grooming, putting on makeup or interacting with passengers.

The Governors Highway Safety Association has noted that Iowa planned to participate this year in the "U Drive. U Text. U Pay." safety campaign. This is supposed to be a national high-visibility effort to reduce distracted driving accidents by coupling anti-texting law enforcement with efforts to educate the public on the dangers of texting while driving.

The GHSA also said that Iowa is implementing its "Safe Lanes Employee Safety Driver Program" which is aimed at encouraging Iowa businesses to create, implement and enforce distracted-driving policies for employees who drive during work.

Seeking recovery for injuries

Obviously, it is incumbent upon all Iowa drivers to avoid making their cell phones an instrument of death or injury to themselves or others. Iowa law gives those injured by the negligence of others the right to pursue a personal injury lawsuit to seek compensation. With medical costs continuing to spiral, auto accident injuries can impose a considerable financial burden on a family. If you or a loved one has been injured in a distracted-driving case, an Iowa personal injury lawyer can review the facts and help you understand your options.