Oregon Motorists Still Not Getting The Message About Texting Behind The Wheel

Distracted driving is an epidemic in Oregon, throughout the Northwest and around the country. While old-fashioned distractions like eating, drinking, grooming and changing the in-car music selection (either by switching CDs or using an mp3 player) continue to play a part in causing traffic accidents, high-tech distractions like handheld cell phones, portable GPS units, tablet computers, e-readers and the ubiquitous text messaging are keeping the fatal accident rate tragically high.

According to preliminary data released by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), there were over 32,000 traffic accident fatalities in the country in 2011 (the most recent year for which data is available), many of them caused by distracted drivers. Distracted driving plays a role in over one million accidents a year, and the National Safety Council estimates that texting single-handedly causes about 200,000 accidents annually.

Scientific data gathered by a recent study from the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute - and highlighted on the federal government's "Distraction.Gov" website - shows that the simple act of reading or sending a text message diverts a driver's attention for a full 4.6 seconds. That miniscule amount of time may seem like nothing, barely enough time to cough or sneeze, but when a car is going 55 miles per hour down the road, 4.6 seconds is long enough to travel the entire length of a football field. Having your eyes off the road for such a long stretch of highway can be catastrophic.

The reach of high-tech devices is even farther than most people realize. A University of Washington research project showed that the mere anticipation of receiving a text message can be almost as distracting as actually reading one while driving. The groundbreaking research shows that regardless of where the phone was located in the car, and even if it was clearly out of the driver's line of sight, a driver is still only partially focused on the road ahead when a text is eagerly expected.

Knowing that texting while driving takes lives, Oregon's lawmakers have taken action. Texting behind the wheel is now banned for all drivers, as are handheld cell phones. So-called "novice" drivers (those under the age of 18) cannot even use a hands-free telephone or headset while operating a vehicle. Even with strict laws (Oregon's distracted driving regulations are some of the strictest in the country), though, accidents still happen.

If you or a loved one has been injured in a car accident with a distracted driver, consider speaking to an experienced personal injury attorney in your area to learn more about your legal rights and options you may have to hold the at-fault driver responsible.