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Distracted driving deaths continue to increase

The summer driving season is more than a month away, but the season is gearing up to be expensive and possibly deadly. Indeed, law enforcement agencies in the tri-state area will be looking for drunk drivers, but they are likely to be searching for distracted drivers as well.

The consternation over distracted driving is increasing despite public service announcements bemoaning the practice and changes in the law criminalizing such behavior. Such frustration may not be surprising, considering that auto fatalities increased in both 2015 and 2016. In fact, the National Safety Council reported that 40,000 people lost their lives on America’s roads last year, a number that was the highest in nearly 50 years.

There are a number of theories behind the increase in distracted driving. Perhaps motorists have become tone deaf to public service announcements showing teens and other young drivers crashing after sending or receiving text messages while driving. Also, drivers may have developed an “it won’t happen to me” attitude since so few tickets for distracted driving are issued compared to other moving violations, such as speeding and red-light violations.

A Fortune.com report showed that laws banning texting and driving have had little effect in a number of states, including Rhode Island, Connecticut and New York. Analysts suggest that a combination of low gas prices, smartphones with compelling apps and interactive interfaces in new cars continues to contribute to traffic deaths. With more young people perpetuating a culture of being able to instantly communicate with their community, even while behind the wheel, it is expected that auto accident deaths may continue to rise.

Those who continue to through caution into the wind could do so at great personal cost. Drivers on New York roads have a duty to use reasonable care while behind the wheel. This means that they have a responsibility to act a reasonable person would, and this includes following the speed limit, abstaining from alcohol before getting behind the wheel and limit the use of electronic devices. If a driver breaches this duty and the breach is the proximate cause of the accident, the offending driver can be held liable.

If you have questions about your legal rights and options after a crash with a distracted driver, an experienced personal injury lawyer can advise you.

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