American College of Preventative Medicine pans distracted driving

A professional doctors’ association is the latest group to suggest more should be done about distracted driving.

We all know that texting while driving is dangerous. According to the Governors Highway Safety Administration, 44 states (including California) have enacted bans on texting for drivers.

But are you aware of just how much more likely a driver who is texting behind the wheel is to cause a traffic accident? The American College of Preventative Medicine is finally asking parents, policy makers and doctors to do more about distracted driving, particularly among teens.

Teenage drivers may be more likely to cause a crash when distracted

"I was surprised that statistically the risks, given the little hard data we have, are comparable or worse than those of individuals who are driving under the influence," Dr. Kevin Sherin, lead author of the ACPM recommendations recently published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, told Reuters Health. Specifically, the recommendations focus on teens.

Teens are not only more likely to use mobile electronic devices, they also seem to be more susceptible to their distracting effects behind the wheel. A study in The New England Journal of Medicine found that drivers who had less than two years of experience were eight times more likely to cause a collision when using a cell phone, and were seven times more likely to crash simply when reaching for a cell phone. Among drivers under the age of 20 who were involved in fatal motor vehicle accidents, 11 percent said they were distracted, according to the same study.

ACPM recommendations included state bans against texting while driving (already in place in most jurisdictions), public relations campaigns warning of the dangers of distracted driving, heightened penalties for violators of distracted driving laws and improved education for future drivers before they obtain licenses, including explanations of the dangers of texting behind the wheel from parents and primary care doctors starting at age 15.

Harmed by a distracted driver? Talk to a lawyer

Distracted driving accidents cause thousands of injuries and deaths every year. While most states have at least banned texting while driving, penalties are light, and many drivers are still not getting the message. Increasingly, groups like the ACPM are joining the struggle to mitigate the extreme threat posed by those who put others' safety at risk by driving while distracted.

If you have been harmed by a distracted driver, you might be entitled to compensation. While fines for distracted driving tickets may be light, if a distracted driver actually causes an accident, the driver (or his or her insurer) can be held responsible for resulting damages by accident victims. Talk to a lawyer if you have been harmed by a distracted driver; your lawyer can tell you more about potential remedies and will help ensure you get the full, fair monetary compensation you deserve.

Keywords: texting, distracted driving, teens