Distracted Driving and Holiday Traffic: A Deadly Combination

Five people were hospitalized and a sixth injured following Maine car accident recently when the driver of a truck, apparently distracted, rear-ended the truck ahead of it, causing it to be pushed into oncoming traffic, where it was struck by a sport utility vehicle head-on. The driver of the second truck was trapped inside and had to be extracted by firefighters.

None of the injuries are classified as life-threatening, though it’s not yet clear whether the injuries sustained will be debilitating.

Authorities haven’t given great detail about the at-fault drivers actions in the moments before the wreck, but they have said he was “momentarily distracted” just before impact.

Our Bangor accident lawyers know a moment is all it takes to change lives forever. Throughout the holiday season, there are numerous distractions that tempt driver’s eyes and attention away from the road – often with deadly consequences.

Allstate reports that even seemingly minor engagements can have a great impact on our ability to drive safely. For example:

  • Those who text and drive had reaction times that were 37.4 percent slower (Note: people who were drunk driving had reaction times slowed by 12.5 percent);
  • Those who eat while driving had a 22 percent slower reaction time and were 18 percent more likely to have poor lane control;
  • Of those who were distracted before a crash, 47 percent of women and 71 percent of men reported the distraction was caused directly by people in their vehicle, including adult passengers, children and especially infants;
  • Unrestrained pets are believed to cause tens of thousands of crashes every year, as they engage in such behaviors as chewing on seats, whining for attention, getting car sick, putting paws on the steering wheel or trying to climb into the driver’s lap;
  • An estimated 3,000 crashes annually are attributed to other distractions, such as grooming, watching videos, using a GPS device, adjusting the radio or reading a map.

Legislators in Maine have taken this issue seriously by enacting laws intended to curb distraction behind the wheel. Among those statutes are a ban on all cell phone use (both handheld and hands-free) for novice drivers, a primary law banning texting by all drivers and a measure that specifically outlaws distraction behind the wheel.

Still, there are many who believe these actions don’t go far enough. The editorial board for the Portland Press Herald penned an opinion piece recently advocating for distracted driving penalties more in line with those received for operating under the influence.

Right now, a person caught texting while driving will incur a mandatory 30-day license suspension – but only if it’s their second offense in the last three years. Meanwhile, a first-time drunk driver will face a mandatory 150-day suspension plus a $400 fine. First-time offenders who refuse a blood test upon request by law enforcement get not only a 275-day license suspension, but also a 96-hour jail stint.

The writers noted that in Maine alone, 41 people have died over the last three years in crashes where distracted driving was listed as a cause. The actual number is probably far higher, as distraction is not as easy to discover as impairment.

Safety advocates encourage drivers to plan ahead for each trip to avoid delays and avoid last-minute calls and texts to make arrangements while driving. Be prepared for roads that are congested and possibly in poor condition due to icy, snowy weather. Remember, a moment’s worth of distraction can cause a lifetime of heartache.

If you are the victim of a Bangor car accident, contact Peter Thompson & Associates at 1-800-804-2004 for a confidential consultation to discuss your rights.

Additional Resources:

Maine Crash Injures Five, Nov. 15, 2014, By Douglas Cobb, GLV Maine

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