Very often, when we hear of vehicles “crossing the center line” in traffic, the cause is distracted driving. This action is especially dangerous because it’s the catalyst for head-on collisions. These collisions have some of the worst outcomes because the force of the impact is doubled due to the traveling speed of both vehicles. That’s why head-on collisions account for 10 percent of all auto accident deaths, even though they account for just two percent of crashes. It’s believed the percentage of head-on collisions may even be increasing due to the rising impact of distraction.
Two fatal car accidents in Maine recently were head-on collisions. Although investigations are ongoing and authorities haven’t yet cited causation, it would not be a stretch to imagine distraction may have played a role, particularly given a new study by Zendrive that found drivers use their phones in 88 out of 100 trips.
The two recent crashes include:
- A fatal crash in Warren, ME in which a 57-year-old man in a passenger car crossed the center line while traveling northbound on Route 1 near the Stirling Road intersection, colliding head-on with a sport utility vehicle driven by a 32-year-old man. The man in the car spun out, striking another SUV driven by a 67-year-old woman. She and the 57-year-old man died instantly, while her 68-year-old husband survived with injuries. The younger man driving the first SUV did not suffer serious injuries, according to WCSH-6.
- The driver of a passenger car traveling on Route 1A in Holden crossed the center line and struck a big rig, spun out, and struck a third vehicle. The Bangor Daily News reports the 30-year-old driver died at the scene. Authorities are working to determine whether the driver was texting, fell asleep, or had some medical issue.
If these motorists were found to have been distracted by smartphones, their estates would be liable for any damages caused to others as a result. In Maine, all drivers – regardless of age – are prohibited from texting while driving. It’s a primary law, meaning you can be pulled over by police and penalized for writing, sending, or reading a text message while driving, even if you committed no other offense. Per Maine Motor Vehicle Statutes Title 29-A S2116, novice drivers (i.e., those under 18) are prohibited from using handheld and hands-free cell phones while driving. This too is a primary law. A first-time violation will result in a $250 fine.
Despite statutes like these on the books, drivers continue to jeopardize not only their own safety but also the well-being of those who share the road. The Zendrive study analyzed three months’ worth of data from 3 million anonymous drivers making 570 million trips over 5.6 billion miles. What they discovered was that most drivers use their phones while their vehicles are in motion, at least at some point. On average, each driver spent 3.5 minutes every hour engaged with their phones. Looking away from the road for just two seconds – the time it takes to glance at a text – increases the odds of a crash by 20-fold. If you’re traveling at 55 mph, you will have gone the distance of two basketball courts in two seconds.
Officials with the Maine Department of Transportation estimate nearly 400 car accidents in the state each year are caused by distraction due to operating an electronic device.
According to WCSH-6, Maine lawmakers are considering a measure that would toughen distracted driving laws, making it illegal for all drivers to operate a vehicle while using a handheld cell phone.
If you are a victim of a Bangor car accident, contact Peter Thompson & Associates at 1-800-490-5218 for a confidential consultation to discuss your rights.
Zendrive Research: Largest Distracted Driving Behavior Study, April 2017, Zendrive
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Heroin-Induced Car Accident in Maine Prompts Rehab Order, March 29, 2017, Bangor Daily News