Texting or E-Mailing and Driving: No LOL Matter

As Old Man Winter returns to Wisconsin, bringing gifts of snow and ice, treacherous driving conditions also return. If the hazards of winter driving weren't enough on their own, technological advances provide their own distractions, leaving drivers trying to split their attention between the road and the gadgets. As of December 1, 2010, drivers will have one less distraction behind the wheel that could keep them from arriving at their destination safely: text messaging.

Wisconsin became the 29th state to begin enforcement of a ban on reading, writing, or sending text messages or e-mails while operating a vehicle. A first offense will subject drivers to a fine between $20 and $400, and will mean four points on their driving record. A subsequent offense brings an even harsher fine, one that can range between $200 and $800.

What's the Big Deal? It's Just a Quick Note.

National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) statistics show that roughly 16 people are killed every day in auto accidents involving a distracted driver, with more than 1,300 more injured. In 2008, almost 6,000 people were killed and a half million more were injured by distracted drivers.

According to the NHTSA, there are three main types of distractions when driving:

  • Visual – those that involve the driver taking his eyes off the road
  • Manual – when the driver takes his hands off the steering wheel
  • Cognitive – where the driver is thinking about something else instead of focusing on the road ahead

Clearly, there are many ways a driver can be distracted – talking to passengers, changing the radio station, grooming, using a cell phone, eating – text messaging is particularly dangerous, as it involves all three types of distraction.

It's easy to focus on the criminal aspects of Wisconsin's new ban on texting and complain about the $400 fine for violating it, but doing that loses sight of what's really important: saving lives on the road.

If you or a loved one has been injured by a distracted driver, contact an experienced personal injury attorney in your area. A lawyer can protect your rights and help you seek compensation for your injuries.