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Distracted Driving Represents Growing Problem in KY Car Accidents

The car accident lawyers examine the growing problem of distracted driving accidents in Kentucky.

Distracted driving is a serious problem in Kentucky. According to the Kentucky Office of Highway Safety, there were more than 52,000 collisions in which distraction was a factor in 2013. Those preventable distracted driving accidents caused 9,000 injuries and 163 deaths. Distracted driving was a factor in 43 percent of all accidents and a fourth of the fatal accident in Kentucky, the statistics indicate.

As a recent example, distracted driving was blamed for a January 27 accident involving four vehicles at McCracken County High School that injured a Paducah teenager. Two of the four students involved admitted to police they were looking at their phones when the accident occurred. Police said a 17-year-old student was driving north in the school’s parking lot while glancing at her phone. She reportedly hit another 17-year student. Another student stopped to avoid a collision with the distracted driver. Another 16-year-old female student didn’t see the car stop in front of her because she too was distracted and caused a collision. She was taken to Western Baptist Hospital for treatment of non-life threatening injuries.

Here are five tips for avoiding distracted driving accidents:

  • Don’t use a cell phone or any other electronic device while driving. Pull over to talk or text.
  • Keep 100 percent of your attention on driving while you are behind the wheel.
  • Expect the unexpected and give yourself time to react. Keep several car lengths between you and the car in front to give yourself time to avoid an accident if the driver stops suddenly. Speeding reduces the amount of time you have to react as well, so slow down.
  • Put the cell phone out of reach so you won’t be tempted to check your email.
  • Be a responsible passenger and speak out if the driver you are riding with is driving distracted.

Anti-distraction messages are usually aimed at the everyday motorists, particularly teenagers who are more likely to text and drive. There is another distracted driving problem that is garnering attention across the country – a growing number of car accidents caused by distracted police officers.

The Today Show recently reported on several deadly crashes involving officers who were on their computers or cell phones while responding to calls. Over the Thanksgiving holiday, two sisters were killed when an officer crossed the median of a highway and smashed into their car going 126 miles per hour. Both women were killed.

That is only one of many cases of police distracted driving occurring nationwide, many of which have led to serious injuries and payouts to injured victims in personal injury and wrongful death claims. Researchers are looking into the problem of such wrecks as a function of the job itself. Police have a number of technologies on board that they must pay attention to while they are behind the wheel, including computers, cell phones, radios and sirens, among others.

Many officers have not received specialized driving training in how to handle responses to emergency calls and only do after an incident has occurred, according to the NBC report. Only a handful of police technologies are equipped with monitors that shut off certain, less critical devices when the patrol car is in motion.

Experts say the other problem that officers face is similar to what other motorists encounter on the roads. There is a cutoff point when the brain cannot handle any more multitasking. Factor in that police officers are often responding in high-stress situations, and the chances for an accident are high indeed.

Washington State University Professor Bryan Vila has developed a simulator in an attempt to discover ways to minimize police crashes involving distracted driving. During a simulation with an NBC reporter, Vila found that he took his eyes off the road for four seconds to use the on-board computer – more than enough time to cause injuries ranging from whiplash to traumatic brain injuries, and even death.

This is a tricky problem that should command even more study. The police have a tough job to protect us from dangers, both on the roads and off. The evolution of digital technologies has made it easier in some ways for officers to communicate with each other and identify dangerous drivers who they pull over. But the distractions created by technology have had an unintended consequence of distracting drivers and threatening the lives of other motorists.

So far, Vila has identified three ways to reduce police-involved distracted driving accidents:

  • Move the location of the devices to a safer location in the patrol car.
  • Equip all vehicles with devices that turn off non-critical police technology when the car is moving.
  • Reinstate the policy of having two officers in the car at the same time so that one can enter the crucial information and communicate with others while the driver can focus on the road.

It will also be interesting to monitor how police vehicles will be adapted to fit with the push toward newer safety features such as vehicle-to-vehicle technology and automatic emergency braking. In the meantime, it’s essential for police departments to develop policies and training programs to help officers do their jobs without risking the lives of themselves and others on the roads.

If you have been injured in an accident caused by a distracted driver in Kentucky, talk to a car accident lawyer about your legal options for obtaining compensation to cover your medical bills and other expenses.