Distracted Driving Kills, But Should We Have a Law Outlawing Eating and Driving?

As a personal injury attorney I am constantly exposed to the gruesome consequences of distracted driving.  My clients are typically injured by someone that is driving and not paying attention.  These injuries can range from bruises, soft tissue and whiplash type of injuries to serious catastrophic injuries that require hospitalization, surgery, and months of rehabilitation.   I never get to meet some clients because they were killed by the negligence of another.

With that said, there is an interesting law being proposed in New Jersey to attempt to outlaw anything that can result in unsafe driving.  I have not seen the text of the bill, but reports note that it is aimed with outlawing a driver from participating in any activity that is unrelated to the safe operation of a motor-vehicle. Lawmakers are attempting to make roads safer by outlawing things like shaving and driving, putting make-up on while driving, watching a movie on a ipad while driving, and all of the various other distracting things people do while driving. Depending on the language of the law, it may be challenged on Constitutional grounds for being over-broad. 

A compilation of teen driver vehicle crashes caused by driver distraction.

In any event, I agree with the spirit of the law, but have concerns about its Constitutionality and the power it may provide law enforcement.  Distracted driving is an issue that needs to be addressed.  An article noted that according to the AAA foundation for Traffic Safety, the three main sources of distracted driving are:  

1) Visual (failing to keep a proper lookout)

2) Manual (taking hands off of the wheel)

3) Cognitive (thinking about something else aside from driving)

Those results are in line with the  personal injury cases I see. The AAA study noted that studying whether or not a person is thinking about something aside from driving is the most difficult thing to study.  This seems  fairly obvious, because it is impossible to see into a person's actual thoughts in real time.  For example, it is difficult to prove a person caused a crash because they were day dreaming. 

At the end of the day what does this mean for Oregon drivers?  The data seems to question whether or not these laws are effective.  However, I am sure more studies will pop out of the wood work affirming the validity of these laws.  

I think everyone will agree that texting and driving is unsafe and should be outlawed even if the empirical data from one particular group does not conclude it is.  Should Oregon Law Makers want to eliminate distracted driving, they can probably look to the current Oregon Revised Statutes that outlaw: texting while driving (ORS 811.507), careless driving (ORS 811.135), and reckless driving (ORS 811.140).  Oregon lawmakers may need to decide whether these laws provide a sufficient deterrent to distracting driving.  

Until the lawmakers address the issue, I will be here to hold distracted drivers accountable for the harms and losses they cause to my clients.   If you or a person you know is injured as a result of distracting driving, please call Portland personal injury attorney Jeremiah Ross at 503.224.1658.   Please call Ross Law LLC today for your free personal injury consultation.