Oleg Fastovsky is an attorney practicing out of central Maryland. He represents clients who have been charged with DUI and other criminal offenses.
On July 1, 2016, the insurance company Allstate issued a report about the cities who have the best and worst records when it comes to safe driving. And the Washington, D.C., area, along with other surrounding areas, was ranked one of the worst in the nation. Drivers in the district area are involved in a crash every 4.9 years. That is over 106 percent higher than the national average.
And people in the Alexandria and Baltimore City areas do not fare any better. People in the city of Baltimore are involved in a crash every 4.7 years while Alexandria, Virginia, drivers are involved in a crash every 6.7 years. This was an alarming statistic for people in these areas; not just because the report was given before the Fourth of July when car accidents are at a yearly high, but because driving is an extremely common and personal practice for most people.
These statistics bring forth a single word that is commonly used among curious people. And that word is why. Why are drivers in the area of Washington D.C. subject to such high rates of driving accidents? And why, in the age of no drunk-driving and driver safety, are people not taking better care of themselves when they are behind a vehicle?
Answers to these questions are always vast and vary in response, but most answers are connected to two simple truths: 1) Americans are overworked and are not taking proper care of themselves and 2) Americans are distracted and overcome by mobile devices. These answers pop up over and over again in everyday and professional responses when dealing with the topic of unsafe driving.
When it comes to being overworked, many people look to the forty-hour work week as the culprit of the crime. However, with the increasing range and potential of technology, workers are both expected and force themselves to work around the clock in order to meet demands. These conditions create times where people are forced to work on their phones in the car, which we all know can lead to a higher rate of accidents.
And with increasing work-time, people are more tired than ever. When you have people who are exhausted and sleep deprived operating a moving vehicle, it only makes sense that more accidents would occur in the process.
As we all know, mobile phones not only cause us to work more, but cause us to become dependent on their function. We have seen it at the table. When you should be having a decent conversation, everyone is looking downward at their cellular device. This type of reliance on cellphones does not magically disappear when we get behind the wheel.
The human’s need to be on their cellphone is still just as strong and powerful. It is so powerful that distracted driving is now just as deadly as drunk driving according to statistics seen by the Economist. And safety measures like talking on a headset are quickly becoming debunked by scientists.
Researchers at Carnegie Mellon University “found that merely listening to somebody speak on the phone led to a 37% decrease in activity in the parietal lobe, where spatial tasks are processed.” This finding clearly debunks the myth that talking on a Bluetooth device is in any way safer than what should be permitted on the road.
And laws surrounding the issue of distracted driving are both rare and tricky to enforce. In states that do have distracted driving laws, officers must view a person texting in their car for multiple seconds before moving to pull them over and issue a fine. That is extremely difficult to do when you are dealing with moving vehicles.
The only thing people can agree upon is that social conscience is the best medicine when it comes to dealing with this problem. Distracted driving must be seen as uncool and unnecessary by the people in this country. This social attitude along with expanding laws is the only foreseeable answer to the problem of distracted driving in Washington, D.C., and cities around the nation.
Borderstan contributor and law firm sponsor Price Benowitz LLP. The views and opinions expressed in the column are those of the author — our contributor and law firm sponsor Price Benowitz LLP — and do not necessarily reflect the views of Borderstan.