Distracted Driving

Posted on Jan 10, 2015
post by Dr John Wilson MD

Texting while driving

This is not my normal type of post here on the news blog, but this is something I have become more and more concerned about in recent months. please read and share!

About 6-months ago our family van was totaled by a young man who rear-ended us at high speed while texting and driving. Thankfully no one was injured. However, ever since then I have been more keenly aware of drivers on the roads who I see clearly texting while they are driving, often with young children in the back seat! It is truly shocking how many times on a daily basis I see people looking down at their phones while they are driving!

“As far as which fatal accidents we’re seeing a lot of now, unfortunately a lot of texting and driving is a big problem,” said Sgt. Paul Reinsch with the Highway Patrol.

I know how high the temptation is to read and respond to texts we receive while we drive, but PLEASE think twice before doing so. And if you have teenage children, do whatever it takes to make sure that they are not texting behind the wheel as well. No text is worth your life, or taking the life of someone else!

Below is a report that was just released about fatal accidents in Mid-Missouri.

Most fatal crashes in ’14 follow pattern of distraction, no seat belt

According to the Missouri State Highway Patrol, inattention is the leading cause of accidents.

COLUMBIA — Kayla Grosso, 24, was driving home from a Christmas party along U.S. 52 in the early morning hours of Dec. 14 when she veered off the left side of the road and lodged her car between two trees, causing one to fall on top of her 2001 Ford Contour.

Grosso had no memory of the minutes before the crash and only learned from family and friends what had happened after waking up in the hospital with her neck broken in two places, a broken wrist and a deep gash in her head.

She wasn’t wearing a seat belt, according to a Missouri State Highway Patrol report.

The crash was just one of 1,457 last year in the geographic area of Troop F, whose jurisdiction is 13 counties in central Missouri including Boone and Callaway. According to online traffic crash reports, of those crashes, 66 resulted in 73 deaths, and the details were similar to that of Grosso’s. Of the 73 people who died, 52 of them were driving when the crash occurred.

The number of fatalities is largely due to drivers not wearing their seat belts. But driver distraction played a role in the majority of the fatal crashes, according to Highway Patrol descriptions obtained from the agency’s website.

“As far as which ones we’re seeing a lot of now, unfortunately a lot of texting and driving is a big problem,” said Sgt. Paul Reinsch with the Highway Patrol.

In the 66 accidents:

11 occurred when the driver crossed the center line.

five happened when the driver didn’t stop in time for traffic ahead.

eight happened when the driver ran off the right side of the road.

12 happened when the driver ran off the right side of the road then over-corrected and ran off the left side.

nine occurred when the driver failed to yield to merging or crossing traffic.

A total of 45 fatal accidents fit these descriptions.

About 48 percent of the people killed in these car accidents were not wearing a seat belt, with another 5 percent of victims’ seat belt status unknown.

Reinsch added there are other forms of distraction, like “just even talking to other occupants inside the car. What we always say is, ‘Driving is a multitasking function,’ and there’s a lot of things that need to go on to drive, and you have to limit those things that are going on, so you don’t want to text.”

Other forms of inattention include looking around in the back seat for something or eating while driving. Officers determine the cause of a crash based on witness testimony and physical evidence.

The first step for an officer at the scene of a crash is to make the scene safe. Once that’s done, the officer starts to gather evidence, the names and injuries of the people involved, and which hospital they’re going to if the injuries require treatment. Then the officer interviews the drivers and any witnesses, asking them what they remember just before the accident: whether the driver was looking at a phone, whether something happened inside the vehicle or whether there was an animal in the road, etc.

Then the officer begins to gather the physical evidence, like the status of the car, skid marks, tire tracks, where the damage is and in what order the damage occurred.

Reinsch said that if someone died in the accident, the officer might call in a special unit called a crash team to break down what occurred. Crash teams for Troop F come from Kansas City, St. Louis or Jefferson City. Crash teams will create detailed diagrams to analyze how a crash occurred and sometimes a total accident reconstruction of the events that occurred in the crash.

Reinsch said the Missouri State Highway Patrol tries to educate the public about distracted driving. He said troopers record public service announcements and conduct safe driving programs in schools and for community groups.

The Highway Patrol does ticket drivers for texting and driving, with these inattention violations falling under the category of “careless and imprudent” driving. But Reinsch said the number of tickets issued for inattention would not be available until later this year.