Safety experts urge smarter approach to distracted driving laws

Safety experts are urging New Jersey lawmakers to take a broader view of distracted driving.

New Jersey lawmakers are working on a bill to strengthen the state's distracted driving laws. As evidence continues to mount that distracted driving is causing havoc on the roads and leading to thousands of preventable fatal car accidents nationwide, safety experts say legislators need to do more to discourage the dangerous practice. As NJTV reports, during recent testimony before the New Jersey Assembly Transportation Committee, experts spoke of the risk of distracted driving and why current laws are failing to keep drivers focused on the road.

How dangerous is distracted driving?

Traffic fatalities are up by 8.8 percent this year and much of that increase can be blamed on distracted driving. Not surprisingly, some of the greatest distracted driving risk comes from cell phones. During testimony before the Assembly Transportation Committee, for example, a spokeswoman for the AAA New Jersey pointed out that using a cell phone behind the wheel is associated with a 37 percent decrease in brain activity dedicated to driving.

However, safety experts were careful to point out that talking on a cellphone and texting are not the only issues that lead to distracted driving. As NJ Advance Media reports, while talking on a cellphone doubles one's risk of a crash, hands-free devices are even more dangerous, making drivers 2.7 times more likely to be in an accident. Furthermore, speech-to-text applications, such as Apple's Siri, increased the risk of a crash threefold.

Smarter legislation

The fact that hands-free devices can be even more dangerous than texting or talking on a cellphone is a fact that safety experts are urging lawmakers to take into consideration when crafting new distracted driving legislation. Those same experts worry that because many states have focused on prohibiting texting and driving or using a handheld device while driving that many drivers get the impression that hands-free devices are safer to use.

In fact, many such hands-free devices have been marketed as a safety feature, despite little evidence showing that they actually decrease distracted driving. While the bill that New Jersey lawmakers are currently working on has yet to be passed, many critics say that what such legislation needs to do is not target a specific technology, but rather tackle distracted driving behavior in general.

Personal injury law

As accidents caused by distracted driving continue to climb, it is important for those who have been hurt in a crash - especially one that may have been caused by a distracted driver - to know that help is available. An accident can lead to significant pain and suffering, not to mention considerable financial strain. A personal injury attorney can help crash victims navigate the claims process and help them pursue compensation that could potentially assist them on their road to recovery.