You may not know the name Eric Okerblom but his story is all too familiar. He was a teenager with a lot of promise. He completed his first bike marathon when he was only 16 years old. On one beautiful summer day in California he set out to do what he loved-go for a bike ride. Eric was soaking in the scenery, feeling the rushing wind on his face and allowing the scent of summer to penetrate his very being. He never saw “it” coming. “It” was another teenage driver behind the wheel of a truck traveling at a reported 60 mph. The driver struck Eric, killing him. The police reports said that the teenage driver didn’t try to avoid him or even try to brake. The reason? Her cell phone records later revealed that she was texting just moments prior to the crash.
Unfortunately, this scene plays out all too often. In fact, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, each day in the United States more than nine people are killed and more than 1,060 people are injured in crashes due to distracted driving.
What is distracted driving?
First, there is visual distracted driving which is taking one’s eyes off the road. Second, there is manual distracted driving which is taking one’s hands off the wheel. Finally, there is cognitive distracted driving which is taking one’s mind off of driving. It's clearly a big problem. In 2011, 3331 people were killed in crashes that involved a distracted driver. Additionally 387,000 people were injured in motor vehicle crashes due to the same reason.
Researchers agree that the most significant form of distracted driving today is the use of a smart phone while operating a motor vehicle. Part of the challenge with smart phones is that they will divert a driver's attention more frequently and for longer periods than any other form of distraction.
As of October 1, 2013 texting and driving became illegal in the state of Florida. The challenge? It is what's known as a secondary offense. That simply means that a police officer is unable to stop a driver because they see them texting and driving. They will need to find another reason to pull them over. If you're caught texting and driving in Florida what is the penalty? The first offense is $30. While many believe this is a good start, it shouldn’t end there.
At our law firm we deal with people on a regular who have experienced a traumatic brain injury or a spinal cord injury due to a traffic accident. Sometimes these accidents are a result of a distracted driver.
In the end, it's not about the laws we pass but the personal responsibility that we take. Simply put, don't get distracted with your cell phone when you're driving. It could save the life of someone you love or another person someone else loves.