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Opinion: Stay focused on the road, not the phone

Ryan Klitzsch
April 28, 2010
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Indiana Lawyer Commentary


We've all been there. Driving the same route day-in and day-out, a hundred times before, with little to differentiate one trip from another. Then there's that one moment when something unforeseen occurs requiring you to instantly maneuver your vehicle and test how good your reflexes and anti-lock brakes really are - making this all-too-routine trip very different from the rest. Maybe it was an unexpected bottleneck slowing traffic, a darting deer, or a blown-out tire. Whatever the reason, the difference between continuing on your mundane drive and having to call your insurance agent (or worse, an ambulance) probably had to do with whether you were distracted from driving at the moment the event occurred. There are many distractions that prevent a driver from focusing on the task of driving: changing the radio or a CD, talking to passengers, eating, using a cell phone or text messaging, to name a few.

Distraction results from any non-driving activity that lessens the attention of the driver on the primary task of driving and increases the risk of crashing or causing others to crash. There are three main types of distractions: (1) visual (taking your eyes off of the road), (2) manual (taking your hands off of the wheel), and (3) cognitive (taking your mind off of what you're doing). While all distractions can endanger a driver's safety, texting is the most alarming because it involves all three types of distraction. To combat this obvious threat, states have been passing texting bans for all drivers at a feverish pace. Washington was the first state to enact a texting-while-driving ban in May 2007. Since then, 22 states have banned texting for all drivers.

Research on distracted driving reveals some surprising and disturbing facts. According to a study conducted by Carnegie Mellon University, driving while using a cell phone reduces the amount of brain activity associated with driving by 37 percent. Recent numbers for 2008 from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) noted that nearly 6,000 people died in crashes involving a distracted driver and more than half a million were injured. Unfortunately younger, inexperienced drivers less than 20 years of age are the most vulnerable and have the highest percentage of distraction-related fatal crashes. Fortunately, in 2009, the Indiana General Assembly passed a ban on the use of cell phones (texting and talking) while driving for drivers under the age of 18. However, all drivers are shown to have issues with driving when distracted by cell phone use. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety noted that drivers who use hand-held devices are four times more likely to get into crashes serious enough to injure themselves. Even more alarming, a study from the University of Utah found that using a cell phone while driving, whether it's hand-held or handsfree, delays a driver's reactions as much as having a blood alcohol concentration at the legal limit of .08 percent!

So whether traveling home from work or driving from one meeting to the next, that call or e-mail can wait. Keep your driving safe, uneventful, and stay focused on the road ahead!

Ryan Klitzsch is dvision director, Traffic Safety, at the Indiana Criminal Justice Institute. The opinions expressed in this column are those of the author's.

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  1. Indiana's seatbelt law is not punishable as a crime. It is an infraction. Apparently some of our Circuit judges have deemed settled law inapplicable if it fails to fit their litmus test of political correctness. Extrapolating to redefine terms of behavior in a violation of immigration law to the entire body of criminal law leaves a smorgasbord of opportunity for judicial mischief.

  2. I wonder if $10 diversions for failure to wear seat belts are considered moral turpitude in federal immigration law like they are under Indiana law? Anyone know?

  3. What a fine article, thank you! I can testify firsthand and by detailed legal reports (at end of this note) as to the dire consequences of rejecting this truth from the fine article above: "The inclusion and expansion of this right [to jury] in Indiana’s Constitution is a clear reflection of our state’s intention to emphasize the importance of every Hoosier’s right to make their case in front of a jury of their peers." Over $20? Every Hoosier? Well then how about when your very vocation is on the line? How about instead of a jury of peers, one faces a bevy of political appointees, mini-czars, who care less about due process of the law than the real czars did? Instead of trial by jury, trial by ideological ordeal run by Orwellian agents? Well that is built into more than a few administrative law committees of the Ind S.Ct., and it is now being weaponized, as is revealed in articles posted at this ezine, to root out post moderns heresies like refusal to stand and pledge allegiance to all things politically correct. My career was burned at the stake for not so saluting, but I think I was just one of the early logs. Due, at least in part, to the removal of the jury from bar admission and bar discipline cases, many more fires will soon be lit. Perhaps one awaits you, dear heretic? Oh, at that Ind. article 12 plank about a remedy at law for every damage done ... ah, well, the founders evidently meant only for those damages done not by the government itself, rabid statists that they were. (Yes, that was sarcasm.) My written reports available here: Denied petition for cert (this time around): http://tinyurl.com/zdmawmw Denied petition for cert (from the 2009 denial and five year banishment): http://tinyurl.com/zcypybh Related, not written by me: Amicus brief: http://tinyurl.com/hvh7qgp

  4. Justice has finally been served. So glad that Dr. Ley can finally sleep peacefully at night knowing the truth has finally come to the surface.

  5. While this right is guaranteed by our Constitution, it has in recent years been hampered by insurance companies, i.e.; the practice of the plaintiff's own insurance company intervening in an action and filing a lien against any proceeds paid to their insured. In essence, causing an additional financial hurdle for a plaintiff to overcome at trial in terms of overall award. In a very real sense an injured party in exercise of their right to trial by jury may be the only party in a cause that would end up with zero compensation.

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