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April – Distracted Drivers Month. 

What were you thinking? Distracted Driving Awareness Month
It’s hard to decide.  You think.
Should we fret more about (a) all the distracted drivers we dodge, or (b) our home inspector friends trying to book a job on the expressway?
Or just duck and say “What, me worry?” – the slogan of Mad Magazine’s Alfred E. Neuman.
Wherever you end up, this definitely is not going away.
The numbers are stacking up.  The pain, injuries and costs are real.  Laws and lawsuits are piling on. Plaintiffs personal injury lawyers are on TV advertising for cases.
All this comes to mind, yet again, because April is “National Distracted Driving Awareness Month.”  Not that we are not stuffed to the gills with national, state and local “Months” and”Weeks” politicians proclaim willy nilly.
The real problem is that, in fact, the odds of outdriving that texting knucklehead are getting worse.  There are some days a home inspector feels lucky to get home.  And we sure as heck don’t want to end up being that knucklehead, untangling a wreck.
Home inspectors drive a lot.  And we use our cell phones a lot.  We’re stuck on both sides of the problem.
This is shaping up to be a “cause” even bigger than drunk driving.  And it is way easier to get tagged for it in a wreck.  Cell phone records already keep down-to-the-minute times for calls and texts.  Most newer phones have a GPS record too.  Practically everyone has a cell camera ready to time/date snapshots at an accident scene.  That’s not to mention the “black boxes” going in cars now.
Don’t think “no one will know” you were texting the minute you ran the light.
The National Safety Council (NSC) reports that there were more than 260,000 driving and cell phone-related crashes so far in 2013.
That number is wrong already.
      Every day, there are another 15 deaths and 1,200 injuries.  The NSC says that there is a distracted driving-related crash every 24 seconds.  So add on another two or three more crashes in the time it took to read this far.  http://www.nsc.org/safety_road/Distracted_Driving/Pages/DDAM.aspx
     Drivers using cell phones are four times more likely to crash, the NSC reports.  And there is no difference between hands-free phones and heldheld phones.
Traffic deaths steadily increased each year since 2005, a study of traffic fatalities due to distracted driving found in 2009.  That was after deaths had gone down from 1999-2005 due to other safety programs like air bags.
Teen-age driver deaths also rose in 2012 – for the first time in 10 years. Researchers believe distracted driving is the main cause.  It looks like the increased number of fatalities is closely following the increased number of drivers using cell phones.
“No email, no text, no update, no call is worth a human life,” says Deborah Hersman, National Transportation Safety Board Chairwoman.
More laws against distracted driving get passed every year.
Kentucky and Indiana both have laws banning texting behind the wheel. Both states also ban any cell phone use for drivers under age 18.  Federal employees are prohibited from texting while driving on government business.  Federal law also prohibits texting by commercial vehicle drivers on the roads.
NSC wants everyone to take the pledge to drive cell free.  Share NSC’s  The Great Multitasking Lie infographic.
For home inspection companies, the NSC Employer Liability and the Case for Comprehensive Cell Phone Policies report and Employer Cell Phone Policy Kit are worth a look.
    It is no exaggeration that distracted driving creates daily life and death situations on our roads and highways. People are doing way too many things behind the wheel of their car other than driving, and the victims are piling up.
    U.S. Department of Transportation records show that distracted driving—including texting, cell phone use and Internet use—caused more than 5,400 deaths and 550,000 crashes in 2009 alone. Even more disturbing, the National Safety Council reports that more than 260,000 driving and cell phone-related crashes have happened so far in 2013, with more than 15 deaths and 1,200 injuries occurring each day. And that number continues to climb every half-minute as data estimates that distracted driving-related crashes occur every 24 seconds in the U.S.
While driving down the road you can witness a whole smorgasbord of distracted driving behaviors. In addition to regularly making and receiving phone calls and text messages, drivers surf the Internet, take care of personal grooming and hygiene, eat and drink, tend to children in the backseat and change the channel and volume on the radio, just to name a few.
    A study of traffic fatalities due to distracted driving from 1999-2008 showed a decrease from 1999-2005 followed by a steady increase each year since 2005. And among teen drivers, driving deaths rose in 2012 for the first time in 10 years. Researchers believe distracted driving is responsible and that the increased number of fatalities is directly related to the increased number of drivers using cell phones.
“No email, no text, no update, no call is worth a human life,” says Deborah Hersman, NTSB Chairwoman.
    Federal and state governments have enacted laws to try to combat the growing epidemic of distracted driving. Kentucky and Indiana both have laws banning texting for all drivers. Both states also ban any cell phone use for drivers under age 18. Federal employees are prohibited from texting while driving when on government business, and federal law also forbids commercial vehicle drivers from texting while driving.
    What’s a home inspector to do?
    First, companies ought to avoid deliberately texting, or calling, inspectors or employees when they know, or should know, they’re driving.  If it’s 110 minutes before an inspector is due on site, email or call in 20 minutes, after they arrive.
    Second, inspectors are better off prioritizing only important calls and texts while on the road.  That’s what mailboxes are for.
    Otherwise, we are in for more promos by plaintiff lawyers, like this recent public service piece from a Louisville injury law firm specializing in contingent fee lawsuits.
“The Becker Law Office cares about your safety and the safety of your passengers and other motorists. Here are a few common sense tips to help prevent distracted driving:
1. *Know where you are going before you get in your car
*Have your passenger navigate
*Save eating your meals for someplace other than your car
*Don’t try to read or use a computer while driving
*Take care of personal grooming and put makeup on before driving
*Wait until you come to a stop to change the radio channel or CD
And if you feel you must use an electronic device while driving, please pull off the road and do so safely once you’ve stopped. The life you end up saving may be your own!”
    We’d be surprised to see rows of cars “pulled off the road” to “use an electronic device while driving.”  Haven’t seen that yet.
    It is not especially clear that having a bunch of cars littering the shoulder to text while driving is all that safe an idea.
    But, for the time being, distracted driving is a cause that is full of shock value and here to stay.
    So, as always, let’s stay safe out there.