Missouri Law Enforcement Crackdown on Distraction Behind the Wheel

Missouri Law Enforcement Crackdown on Distraction Behind the Wheel

Distracted driving is a growing problem in Missouri. Amid a host of efforts by law enforcement to mark Distracted Driving Awareness Month, state transportation department officials are looking for creative ways to snag motorists’ attention.

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Car accident attorneys in St. Louis note the agency will soon start using machines called long range acoustical devices (LRAD) to get drivers to pay attention, particularly while traveling through work zones. State transportation workers said that work trucks could be “lit up like Christmas trees,” and yet drivers will fail to glance up from their phones, sometimes while traveling at speeds in excess of 65 miles-per-hour.

That kind of distraction can be deadly.

In the National Safety Council’s recently-released injury and fatality report, cell phones are suspected as a cause of 26 percent of all car crashes in this country, which represents a slight increase from the previous year.

What is perhaps most interesting about the new research is that just over 5 percent of all wrecks related to cell phones can be attributed to text messaging. In fact, the majority of crashes happen because the driver is having a conversation. Study authors found that hands-free cell phones weren’t any safer – despite the overwhelming perception that they are somehow less dangerous.

This view is exacerbated by the fact that so many states have worked hard to ban text messaging and handheld cell phone use – but have made exceptions for hands-free devices.

Missouri has one of the laxest laws on the books when it comes to cell phone use by drivers. Under the current statute, only drivers under the age of 21 are banned from texting while driving. For those novice drivers, it’s considered a primary offense, meaning a police officer could stop a driver solely on that basis.

However, for all other drivers, text messaging isn’t illegal, and neither is cell phone use – handheld or otherwise.

It’s commendable that the Missouri Department of Transportation is seeking to reduce the risk to highway construction crews with the LRAD, which are truck-mounted devices that can blast safety messages at more than 150 decibels. this is high enough to penetrate your windshield and overpower a loud stereo system. These messages would remind drivers who are speeding to slow down.

It’s worth noting, though, that highway workers aren’t the only ones at risk. The National Safety Council reports that the No. 1 cause of workplace death – by a large margin – is motor vehicle crashes. Every year, 1,600 workers die in traffic crashes. Based on national statistics, it’s safe to assume that at least a quarter of those can be attributed to distraction. There is a high likelihood that the actual number is even higher, particularly given that people who are on the road for work may be especially prone to attempts at multitasking.

Increasingly, employers are assuming liability. Consider in a recent case that a salesperson talking on his cell phone en route to an appointment caused a crash and injured another driver. The employer liability in that case is estimated by the NSC to be approximately $16.1 million.

Many employer cell phone policies have allowances for hands-free devices. But in another recent crash involving a driver using a hands-free cell phone – per her company’s work policy – the damages after seriously injuring another driver were pegged at $21 million.

The reality is that state and federal laws fall quite short of the best safety practices for workers – and all drivers. Just because the state or your employer doesn’t prohibit an action doesn’t make it safe.

The NSC recommends that drivers adopt the following in recognition of Distracted Driving Awareness Month:

    • Commit to not using your cell phone behind the wheel.
    • Understand that hands-free devices offer no benefit in terms of safety.
    • Be cognizant of the fact that multi-tasking behind the wheel is dangerous.
    • Talk to others about the potential risk of talking on a cell phone while driving.

More Blog Entries:
St. Louis Trucking Accidents: Regulator Failing on Several Fronts, March 30, 2014, St. Louis Car Accident Lawyer Blog

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Ryan R. Cox & Associates, LLC

Ryan R. Cox & Associates, LLC is a litigation law firm that represents individuals and families in serious personal injury and wrongful death claims throughout Missouri. We help people who have been injured in all types of accidents—including car or truck accidents, motorcycle accidents, slip and fall accidents, and much more. Whether your injury is something that can cause long-term issues like a brain injury or spinal cord injury, or it is something you’ll likely make a full recovery from, we are here to help.

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