Drunk drivers in Birmingham, Montgomery and Tuscaloosa maybe should get ready to have your numbers added to by those numerous distracted drivers currently out on Alabama roadways. As a Birmingham DUI defense lawyer, I've been saying for years that in-vehicle distractions can be just as deadly as driving drunk. So far, the law hasn't totally caught up to the latter group.
Defending cases of driving under the influence of alcohol is something I do many dozen of times every month. In fact, DUI and breath test refusal cases make up the bulk of some attorneys' case load. Lately, we were reminded of the increasing number of non-drunk driving accidents, mostly involving drivers who were simply not paying attention.
According to researchers at the University of Alabama at Birmingham's University Transportation Center, so-called distracted driving has become epidemic with an estimated 800,000 vehicles across the U.S. being driving daily by someone using a cell phone (in 2008), according to the United States Department of Transportation. That same year, 6,000 people nationwide died in distracted-driving-related vehicle crashes — 500,000 were injured, accident records show.
The result of this is clear: driving while distracted by cell phones, text messaging or other technologies increases the risk of vehicle crashes, according to one of the researchers at the UAB UTC. The latest research projects coming out of the UAB include studying distracted driving in teens with ADHD and the effects of cell phone distraction in adolescent and college-aged pedestrians.
Is it worse than drunk driving? Some say yes. If enough evidence is found to support the existence of this new danger on our roads, expect more laws limiting certain activities by drivers while a vehicle is in motion. Anti-texting laws are already coming into vogue across the nation.
What's interesting is that the public agrees with the potential dangers posed by distracted driving, but is less apt to follow their own suggestions for others. A recent AAA study showed that people have a ‘do as I say, not as I do' mentality. Nearly 60 percent of respondents believed that using a cell phone on the road was dangerous, yet 67 percent of them admitting to using a cell phone while driving in the past 30 days.
Surprising? Not really. Just human nature. What is interesting is that almost 90 percent of drivers thought texting while driving was dangerous — nearly the same amount as thought drunk driving was dangerous.
If you or someone you know has been arrested for drunk driving, I highly recommend that you contact an experienced DUI defense attorney for help with your case. More than a few drunk driving charges can not easily be substantiated at trial, so never as if you don't have a chance to win your case. That's where consulting with a qualified legal professional makes all the difference.
It's official: UAB study finds cell phone using, texting, distracted driving an epidemic, AL.com, October 14, 2009