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Saturday, October 10, 2009

Are Driving Distractions Within the Course of the Employment?

The US Department of Transportation recently held a national summit on the issues arising from distracted driving. The facts presented were certainly convincing that distracted driving is a leading cause of accidents.   

  • Distracted driving is dangerous. Distraction from cell phone use while driving (hand held or hands free) delays a driver's reactions as much as having a blood alcohol concentration at the legal limit of .08 percent. (University of Utah)
  • Driving while using a cell phone reduces the amount of brain activity associated with driving by 37 percent. (Carnegie Mellon)
  • 80 percent of crashes are related to driver inattention. There are certain activities that may be more dangerous than talking on a cell phone. However, cell phone use occurs more frequently and for longer durations than other, riskier behaviors. Thus, the #1 source of driver inattention is cell phones. (Virginia Tech 100-car study for NHTSA)
  • Drivers that use handheld devices are four times as likely to get into crashes serious enough to injure themselves. (Insurance Institute for Highway Safety)
  • Nearly 6,000 people died in 2008 in crashes involving a distracted or inattentive driver, and more than half a million were injured. (NHTSA)
  • Research shows that the worst offenders are the youngest and least experienced drivers: men and women under 20 years of age. (NHTSA)
  • On any given day in 2008, more than 800,000 vehicles were driven by someone using a hand-held cell phone. (National Safety Council)
Kristin Backstrom, AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, testified that, “People who wouldn't get drunk and drive somehow think it's OK to text and drive - which is just as dangerous.

Public policy has always swayed the direction of the legislature. The facts surrounding distracted driving  will probably no exception. Whether this activity can be considered by the courts, as "arising out of and in the course of the employment," or whether the legislature will merely bar compensability if distracted driving is a cause of an accident, has yet to be determined. 
For more on "distracted driving" please click here.

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