A lot has been written about the hazards of distracted driving. Now, there is new information about the impact of distraction on police officers! A public safety administration class at St. Mary’s University here in Minnesota analyzed 378 crashes involving police cars from 2006 to 2010. The results are intriguing!
Key findings included:
Most crashes occurred during non-emergency responses
Crashes occurring during emergency responses were the most expensive
Distracted driving caused 14% of all crashes
Half of distracted driving crashes were due to the use of squad car computers
Average insurance claim was $3,000 per crash. However, if the crash was due to distracted driving it doubled to $6,000. If the crash was due to squad car computer distraction the average cost was $10,000!
This study is interesting, but it’s only a partial snapshot of this type of crash in one state. It did not include some of the larger police departments, such as St. Paul and Minneapolis.
Bottom line: It’s safe to assume that distracted driving is just as dangerous to police (and prehospital providers, too). And with growing dependence on advanced technology for law enforcement, this problem is just going to get worse. It is imperative that everything be done to improve safety for our law enforcement colleagues. Potential solutions include training to increase awareness of distractions within the car, simulator testing of driving while using cockpit technology, and ergonomic studies to maximize field of view from within the car.
EAST is branching out from one of its core areas, creating trauma practice guidelines. They are now beginning to address other problems using the same techniques for developing their practice guidelines. Instead of generating guidelines for clinical care, they are creating action statements based on the best available literature.
This Distracted Driving review was one of a group of new EBRs was presented last week at the EAST Annual Scientific Assembly. The panel reviewed information from government agencies and studies based on crash databases and simulations. The number of cellphone subscribers has surpassed 250 million, and the number of deaths from distracted driving has followed a similar curve.
Distracted driving is implicated in 20% of injury crashes and 16% of fatal crashes. Drivers under age 20 has the highest proportion of distracted drivers.
EAST made three Level II recommendations, which means that they are reasonably justifiable by available scientific evidence and strongly supported by expert opinion. They are:
Drivers should minimize all distractions while on the road
Cell phone use and texting should not be performed while driving
Younger inexperienced drivers should not use cell phones during their probation period (if such a period is mandated by their state)
Future areas of interest will include studying the impact of legislation regarding cell phones and texting, development of crash avoidance systems, and evolving cell phone technologies.
Reference: Evidence Based Review on Distracted Driving, presented at the 2011 EAST Annual Scientific Assembly. Note: this information is preliminary and may be changed prior to publication.
By now, everyone probably knows that texting while driving is bad. So legally banning texting is good, right? It seems that way, since everyone is doing it. Thirty states plus the District of Columbia currently ban texting while driving, and a third of those laws were passed just this year.
Talk about the law of unintended consequences. The Highway Loss Data Institute compared collision insurance claims before and after bans were put into effect in four states (CA, LA, MN, WA). Crash rates actually rose in three of the four states after the bans were passed.
How can this be? Unfortunately, the claim data can’t tell us what the increase is due to. They speculate that texting drivers are trying harder to conceal their habit, keeping their phones out of sight and taking their eyes off the road even more. Or, it could just be a statistical fluke.
The federal Transportation Secretary disagrees. He stated that distracted driving fatalities increased from 2005 to 2008, but stopped rising in 2009. I’m not clear on where this data comes from.
In either case, texting remains a bad thing to do. This debate just points out that bans are not the complete answer. Prevention programs and behavior modification need to be developed to comprehensively address this problem.
Will Our Phones Help Save Us From Being Distracted By Our Phones?
I’ve written many posts on the perils of texting and driving. Everybody knows it’s bad, but they still do it. It’s tough for police to detect, let alone enforce.
How to deal with this problem? Well now, there’s an app for that!
AdelaVoice has released a free app for Android phones that allows the user to interact with their phone without touching or even looking at it. It’s called StartTalking and lets the user send and listen to texts, post to Twitter or Facebook, as well as other tasks. To visit their website, click here.
I think that this app could dramatically improve road safety if it works as advertised. However, I also don’t think it’s the final answer, because research has also shown that just talking on the phone is a distraction and leads to accidents, too.
It will be very interesting to see where this type of solution leads us.
Disclosure: I have no financial interest in AdelaSoft or StartTalking. I don’t even own an Android phone!
The Trauma Professional's Blog provides information on injury-related topics to trauma professionals. It is written by Michael McGonigal MD, the Director of Trauma Services at Regions Hospital in St. Paul, MN. Regions is a Level I Adult Trauma Center, and has partnered with Gillette Children's Specialty Hospital to become the first Level I Pediatric Trauma Center in the Upper Midwest.