We tend to think of distracted driving as something involving cellphones or, perhaps, overuse of a GPS or an in-dash entertainment system, but an Oregon bus accident this week offers a strong reminder of just how broad the term actually is.
According to a report in The Oregonian “the driver of a shuttle bus that crashed Saturday morning on Interstate 5 near Woodburn was trying to retrieve a water bottle when he lost control” of the vehicle. The accident occurred near milepost 269 in I-5’s southbound lane. The 35-person bus had only two passengers in addition to the 72-year-old driver, according to the paper. All three people suffered minor injuries when the bus “crossed the center median, broke a cable barrier, crossed the northbound lanes, went off the road and rolled onto the driver’s side.”
The bus hit a car as it crossed the northbound interstate but no one in that vehicle was injured. Two northbound lanes of the highway were closed “for several hours,” The Oregonian reports.
We can all be thankful that no one was seriously hurt in this Oregon bus accident, but the fact that something this dramatic could be touched off by something as seemingly minor as reaching for a water bottle ought to make everyone reading this blog sit up and take notice.
As I have noted on several previous occasions, the sheer number of distractions we all face when we drive has multiplied incredibly over the last generation. As an Oregon distracted driving victims lawyer I am always careful to remind people that distractions come in many forms. The focus on texting and on the use of hand-held cellphones in recent years has been very useful, but cannot be a substitute for a broader awareness of safety at its most basic level – keeping your eyes on the road. Fiddling with the radio or rummaging in a bag sitting on the passenger seat may not be as dangerous, statistically speaking, as texting, but that does not mean that either of these activities is ‘safe.’
Bigger education campaigns focusing on exceptionally dangerous conduct should not make any driver forget the potential distractions – and dangers – that even mundane items (such as a water bottle) can offer if using or searching for them takes more of your attention than the road – even for just a few seconds.