Hypocrisy and Disrespect Perpetuates Our Distracted Driving Crisis
By Joel Feldman, Esq.
April is Distracted Driving Awareness Month and, despite many campaigns to reduce distracted driving, we still kill about 3,000 and injure another 400,000 of us each year in distraction-affected crashes.
For many years as a lawyer, I have represented those badly injured, or the families of those killed, in distracted driving crashes. I would go into court and argue how negligent a driver was for driving distracted, yet I would still e-mail and text while driving. I also regularly lectured my children not to drive distracted while still doing so myself.
Hypocrisy and lack of respect for others governed my driving and governs the driving of so many of us resulting in senseless but preventable tragedies. I gave up my driving distractions only after my 21-year-old daughter, Casey, was killed by a distracted driver.
Our hypocrisy knows no bounds when it comes to distracted driving.
A study by Cambridge Mobile Telematics revealed that 63 percent of drivers are more afraid of distracted drivers than intoxicated drivers (37 percent). Yet, according to AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, about 55 percent of those ages 19-39 will read texts while driving. For many of us it’s okay when we drive distracted but it’s not okay when others are.
We tell our children not to drive distracted, but drive distracted ourselves.
Through my organization EndDD.org, I have spoken with nearly 200,00 students across the country. More than 70 percent tell me their parents regularly drive distracted.
“My mom is such a hypocrite. She tells me not to drive distracted but she does it all the time.”
Distracted driving takes a terrible toll on our children—the most inexperienced of drivers. Nearly 60 percent of serious teen crashes are attributable to distraction. According to the University of Michigan/Toyota, teens whose parents drive distracted are between two and three times more likely to drive distracted than teens whose parents do not drive distracted. It behooves us to send clear and unequivocal messages not to drive distracted to our children. Our children have recognized our hypocrisy. Isn’t time for us to do so?
Distracted driving evidences a total lack of respect for those we share the roads with, including first responders.
When I ask students, or adults, during distracted driving presentations what it means to respect others, I am told “to value others and to treat others the way I want to be treated.” When it comes to distracted driving, isn’t it clear how we want to be treated by others? We want drivers we share the road with to be looking at the road and not their phones. How does taking our eyes off the road to look at our phones show our respect for those we share the road with?
We share the road with other motorists, their passengers, pedestrians and bicyclists. But we also share the road with our first responders. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, between 2011 and 2015, 192 law-enforcement workers and 52 fire and rescue workers were killed in roadway incidents. The Emergency Responders Safety Institute (ERSI) reports that between 2018 and 2020, 90 law enforcement officers, fire and EMS, tow truck operators and DOT workers were killed on our highways. Another 15 have been killed from January through April 10, 2021.
Over the past few months I have met family members of first responders who will never see a child, spouse, or parent again because a distracted driver killed them. Coming to our rescue should not mean that first responders are putting their lives in jeopardy on our highways. It is estimated that distraction plays a role in more than 90 percent of first responder deaths on our roads.
In recent virtual distracted driving talks, poll questions revealed more than 90 percent of respondents believed “move over laws” were important to protect first responders. Ninety percent of respondents also indicated that choosing to drive without distraction was a way of showing respect for first responders.
By changing the way we think about distracted driving we will save lives and make our roads safer for everyone.
If we ignore our hypocrisy and continue to disrespect those we share the road with, including first responders, we will continue to kill and maim thousands. We can show our respect for others by changing the way we drive and putting our phones down. Doing the right thing will save lives, including those of our children.
When travelling on our roads we all want to arrive safely, and our loved ones want us to arrive safely. We are all in this together. We know what to do. Let’s do it now.
Joel Feldman, Esq. is an attorney in Philadelphia who created EndDD.org after his daughter Casey was killed by a distracted driver. He can be reached atinfo@EndDD.org