Have you recently been driving on the road and a driver inexplicably changes lanes, or slows or drives in a manner that gives you very little predictability of their next move or action. When you pulled up to their car or saw the person in the window, were you appalled buy the fact that they were oblivious to you and the danger they posed on the road, talking on their cell phone without a care in the world.
Auto cell phone usage has climbed remarkably in the last several years. So destructive can be the accident or injury when these people are distracted, that recent legislation banned certain behavior and requires more use of earpieces and hand free devices. If it gets bad enough, usage in the automobile might be banned altogether.
But driver distraction is not new to most of us. Have you had the same experience as above, but seen the driver turned, looking at or attending to a child in the back seat of their car. Remember, when I was young I could ride in the front seat, within easy reach of my mother’s backhand. Children and air bags do not mix and we now relegate the back of the car as the child’s playground. Which scenario is worse, the cell phone user focused on nothing but their lovely afternoon discussion or the parent distracted by the unruly child.
They both can be damaging and deadly by our experience representing victims of accidents and as reported in the LA times recently. Mr. Frankie Glass was the victim of a head-on collision with a parent, preoccupied and distracted by children in the car. See the article Unruly kids driving parents to deadly distraction, By Ralph Vartabedian.
Shall we legislate that no person can talk to their child while driving, or that all vehicles occupied by children must have a back seat communication device installed, that allows for hands free and forward facing communication?
I suggest that what we really need is a good dose of common sense. But we feel that is not enough. How do we enforce such a simple requirement of other drivers? We feel better if a random number of people get a ticket for being on their cell phone, but no ticket if distracted by their child.
So what shall we do? My experience is that the penalty for injury is too easily washed away by insurance payments. Oh sorry, I have good insurance, does not get the message to others in similar situations. However, suppose that the penalty for causing an accident when distracted on a cell phone or by a child was twice the amount the victim would be entitled to receive, and the penalty would have to be paid from the personal assets of the wrongdoer, and enforced by automatic attachment to a home, a car or job earnings. Sure it gives the victim a windfall but they are the one suffering, not us.
We do this with drunk drivers, revoke their license, heavily fine and revoke insurance, order restitution and the like. The difference is that many of those people are subject to addictions; I bet the average person would get a high dose of common sense when the bite comes upon them.
Until someone agrees, we will simply watch as the number of injuries rises.