The world became acutely aware of the dangers of text messaging and driving when a Metrolink commuter train crashed into a Union Pacific freight train on Friday, September 12, 2008. That collision resulted in 25 deaths in Chatsworth, California. The apparent cause of the accident was that the Metrolink train ran through a red signal. However, investigators discovered the real cause of the accident was due to the engineer’s text messaging as he drove the train. In addition to the 25 deaths, multitudes more remained in the hospital after the accident. Metrolink faces a potential $200+ million dollar lawsuit for the negligence on the part of the conductor.
Although Metrolink’s policy forbids text messaging on the job, the engineer violated those rules when he communicated with an aspiring engineer while operating the train. The investigation revealed that the last text message was sent 22 seconds before the crash. A psychology professor from the University of Utah is quoted as attributing the cause of the accident to “inattention blindness” which prevented the engineer from seeing the red signal indicating a train was on its way from the opposite direction.
This accident effected a change in California legislation. Afterwards, the California Public Utilities Commission approved unanimously a law to temporarily ban the usage of cellular communication devices by train crew members. Then, the following week, texting while driving a car was banned in California as of January 1, 2009.
It is indeed sad that 25 people had to die in this horrific tragedy before legislation was enacted and further studies were conducted. In Pennsylvania in October of 2007, state lawmakers tried to curb distractions resulting when drivers texted. Both the Pittsburgh Post Gazette and the Pittsburgh Channel published articles on the subject as far back as June of 2006. However, this accident and other car accidents spawned a major study conducted in July of 2009 by the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute that discovered just how dangerous driving and texting can be.
Its major finding was that out of talking, dialing or reaching for the phone, text messaging results in the greatest accident risk. Alarmingly, teenage drivers’ chances of getting into a car accident while text messaging are four times greater than adults. A driver reaching for a cell phone or text messaging device is 1.4 times more likely to crash than someone who is concentrating 100% on the road before him or her.
Text messaging also poses a dangerous occupational hazard for truck drivers. In that same study, it was discovered that truck drivers who text while driving are 23.2 times as likely to get into an accident than those whose eyes are glued to the road. One who is reaching for a text message device is 6.7 times more vulnerable to a crash. Finally, that study provided an interesting statistic. For every six seconds of time driving, 4.6 of those seconds is consumed when a driver sends or receives a text message. This proves how dangerous text messaging can be.
We touched upon the subject of teen driving and text messaging. Let us examine it further. Everyone knows how reckless teenagers can be. When it comes to cell phone driving restrictions, this is no exception. Despite the dangers, more than a half of teenage drivers ignore them. In 2007, driver distraction such as text messaging, accounted for approximately 1,000 crashes. More than 60 percent of American teens admit to taking chances behind the wheel, and half of them admit to text messaging while driving.
And here is the kicker statistic: Almost 50% of all drivers between the ages of 18 and 24 text message while behind the wheel. Moreover, 33 percent of all drivers under 24 text while driving.
Not only teenagers are susceptible to text messaging abuses. One-fifth of adult dtivers send text messages on the road. A 2007 survey by Nationwide Mutual Insurance Company even found that 19 percent of motorists admit to text messaging while driving.
It can be seen that text messaging while driving is a far-reaching epidemic. Although progress has been made in terms of legislation, drivers should be educated as to how dangerous it can be.
If you have been injured as a result of an accident wherein the other party was talking on a mobile phone or sending a text message call Attorney Emery Brett Ledger @ 800-300-0001. The Law Offices of Ledger & Associates has extensive experience dealing with accidents of this nature.