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We all know texting distract drivers. They are warnings everywhere.  Here is one that should get your attention, keep your eyes on the road and away from texting:  Jonathan Mikeal Raynes is going to spend 2 years in the Alabama State penitentiary because he was texting when his car struck another car killing its driver.  He will then be on probation for two years and if he violates that probation, he will spend 8 years in jail.

You say it will not happen to me.  Who is Mr. Raynes?  From all reports, he is not a thug, a gang member, a hoodlum or bad guy.  He wasn’t speeding, driving drunk or intentionally reckless.  He was working – making deliveries for his father’s auto parts business when the wreck happened.   The result of his texting is more than his prison time.  He also has to live with the death of a 24 year old recent college graduate and the effect her death has on her family.

A fellow trial lawyer friend of mine, Mike Ferrara of New Jersey recently posted some interesting facts about the effects of texting in the United States.  Distracted driving was linked to 1.4 million crashes in New Jersey between 2004-2013.  These  account for nearly half of all motor vehicle accidents during this period.  At any given time on U.S. roads, there are 660,000 vehicles being driven by someone using a hand-held phone.  In 2013, 10 percent of all drivers aged 15 to 19 involved in fatal crashes were reported as distracted at the time of the crash.

Texting while driving and has already been banned  in 46 states. Alabama is one of those states.  The ban on hand held cell phone conversations is not as strong.  Talking on the cell phone is distracting as well. Research has shown that texting and driving is as dangerous as driving while intoxicated. Because texting is used regularly by younger people, drivers under 20 have the highest proportion of distraction-related fatal crashes.

You say “I don’t text.  Why should I be worried?” It goes back to what my father taught me in the 60’s- defensive driving.  Do not assume the other guy is going to do what is right.  Do not assume that his blinker means he is really going to turn.  Don’t assume he is going to stop at that stop sign.  Don’t assume anything.  Be wary.  Keep a look out.  The Raynes fatal wreck occurred when he swerved into oncoming traffic.  Unexpected.

The National Safety Council observes April as Distracted Driving Awareness Month to draw attention to this epidemic. It urges us all to recognize this month, talk to others about distracted driving and practice safe driving techniques ourselves.  It has a great webpage on what you can do to be safer It asks you take the Focused Driver Challenge and pledge to drive cell free.

I pledge to Take Back My Drive for my own safety and for others with whom I share the roads. I choose to not drive distracted in any way – I will not:

  • Have a phone conversation – handheld, hands-free, or via Bluetooth
  • Text or send Snapchats
  • Use voice-to-text features in my vehicle’s dashboard system
  • Update Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Vimeo, Vine or other social media
  • Check or send emails
  • Take selfies or film videos
  • Input destinations into GPS (while the vehicle is in motion)
  • Call or message someone else when I know they are driving

Take the pledge to your children or other loved ones that you will be an attentive driver. Share your pledge on social media.

We all know distracted driving is a problem that is 100 percent preventable. Before you are tempted to send a text message, remember the dangers of distracted driving.  Do what you can do to prevent tragedy from striking in your life!   Don’t risk your life and others.  Don’t spend part of your life behind bars.  You do not have to live with a preventable error that cost another’s life.  Don’t drive while texting or distracting.  Pass it on- but not by texting when driving!.

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