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This week, the US Department of Transportation is hosting the Distracted Driving Summit. During the two-day meeting, attended by senior transportation officials, safety advocates, government officials, academics, and law enforcement representatives, attendees are expected to discuss the dangers that can arise when a motorist is texting while driving or engaged in another distracted driving habit.

Our Portland, Oregon car accident lawyers welcome the good news that lawmakers and safety officials are taking a closer look at distracted driving. About 8,000 auto accidents occur each year due to distracted driving. Distracted driving is any activity that compels a motorist to take his or her eyes off the road, the hands off the wheel, and/or focuses the mind on anything other than driving. Talking on the phone, reading, painting one’s nails, putting on makeup, text messaging, surfing the Web, and Twittering are just some examples.

Each of these harmless activities become dangerous when done while driving. The injuries that result during an Oregon motor vehicle accident can be fatal. Meantime, surviving loved ones are left to cope with the inconsolable loss of a loved one who died because someone was distracted while driving.

To get motorists to stop engaging in distracted driving, AAA and AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety are calling on drivers to put away any distractions for just one week. Heads Up Driving Week will take place from October 5 – 11. The recommendation is “Try it for a week – do it for life.”

More Facts about Distracted Driving:
• Driver inattention is a factor in over 1 million North American auto accidents each year.
• Most drivers spend more than half of their driving time engaging in a secondary task.
• Using a cell phone while driving increases a driver’s crash risk by up to 4 times.
• Even though the AAA Foundation’s 2009 Traffic Safety Culture Index found that 95% of motorists now know that texting while driving is not acceptable, 18% still text or email while driving.

Throughout the state, Portland, Oregon injury attorney Matt Kaplan represents clients who were injured in car accidents, truck crashes, bicycle collisions, pedestrian accidents, and motorcycle crashes involving negligent drivers.

U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood Announces Agenda for Distracted Driving Summit, Department of Transportation, September 16, 2009
The Facts about Distracted Driving – Know the Dangers/Avoid the Risks, AAA Foundation.org
Related Web Resources:
Hands Free, Text Messaging, and Cell Phone Driving Laws

National Highway Traffic Safety Administration

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The US Transportation Department is reporting an increase in the number of women arrested for drunk driving. Although there are still more males arrested for drunk driving than women—626,371 men were arrested for DUI in 2007 and only 162,493 women—from 1998 to 2007, there was a 28.8% jump in the number of female drunk driver arrests and a 7.5% drop in the number of men arrested for DUI.

US Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood says he is surprised at the rise in DUIs involving women. Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) President Laura Dean Moody says that although the reason is unclear why more women are being arrested for drunk driving now than 10 years ago, she believes that it may be because females are facing greater pressures these days, such as having to be the breadwinner while their husbands are unemployed. Moody also noted that there are television programs that portray stay-at-home moms who drink as cool.

The NHTSA also is providing a breakdown of how many women and men were arrested for DUI over the last two years while they were involved in deadly Oregon traffic accidents.

The hope that using hands-free cell phones while driving is safer than talking on a hand-held phone while operating a motor vehicle went out the window after news surfaced that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration withheld research as far back as 2003 showing that use of any kind of cell phone when driving is dangerous. Researchers even went so far as to draft a letter expressing concern that laws banning hand-held cell phones would not be enough to eliminate the safety risk.

Just talking on the phone is a form of distracted driving—it doesn’t matter whether you are holding the phone or using a headset. Talking on a cell phone slows a motorist’s reaction time and takes his or her attention off the road and away from driving and can cause a motor vehicle crash.

Apparently, NHTSA researchers knew as far back as 2002 that cell phone use while driving caused 240,000 traffic accidents and almost 1,000 motor vehicle deaths that year. Yet a former NHTSA head says he was encouraged to hold back the information so as not to anger Congress. The agency was warned to focus on gathering facts, rather than lobbying states to come up with tougher driving laws regarding wireless devices.

If only this information was made available to the public back then, talking on the phone and text messaging while driving may not have become unsafe driving habits that have grown to such epidemic proportion that some states have passed laws restricting cell phone use while driving. Now, even though motorists finally know how dangerous talking on a cell phone and texting while driving can be, many of them are finding it hard to stop.

How many lives could have been saved if this information had come to the surface six years ago? The traffic accident toll from cell phone use—currently about 2,600 fatalities, 636,000 traffic accidents, and 330,000 a year—has almost doubled in less than a decade. Even now, not all US states have laws banning hand-held cell phones. In Oregon, HB2377 was recently passed by legislators seeking to ban hand-held phones while driving. Hands-free cell phones, however, would still be allowed.

Each day, in many US states, hundreds of thousands of drivers continue to talk on hands-free cell phones while driving because they think that they are actually practicing safe driving habits. Meantime, one study from University of Utah psychologists equates cell phone use while driving to drunk driving.

Talking on any kind of cell phone while driving is considered a form of distracted driving that can cause Portland, Oregon car crashes, truck accidents, bus collisions, and pedestrian injuries.

Withheld research confirms driving danger of cell phone use, DelawareOnline.com, July 24, 2009
NY Times: Federal agency withheld warnings about distracted driving risks, Bikeportland.org, July 21, 2009
Related Web Resources:
US Wireless Communication Devices While Driving, NY Times, July 2003
Drivers on Cell Phones are as Bad as Drunks, University of Utah

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