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Distracted drivers still a threat to pedestrian safety in Iowa

Too many of us have come face-to-face with a distracted and dangerous driver. In many cases, a person is simply walking on sidewalks or in crosswalks when suddenly a car comes out of nowhere and either hits the pedestrian or nearly hits the pedestrian. These types of collisions are far too common in Des Moines and pedestrian accidents are often caused by a driver who is distracted by a phone and fails to pay attention. 

The problem is not just in Iowa, sadly. Across the country, distracted drivers are causing catastrophic and fatal accidents with pedestrians and bicyclists and efforts are being made to change this troubling trend. Unfortunately, a recent report released by AAA states that efforts to curb the use of hand-held phones behind the wheel may not be helping. 

Some states, such as Iowa, prohibit texting and driving while others also ban the use of hand-held phones altogether. Because of these laws, many tech companies and auto manufacturers have put out products that use voice activation and touch screen technologies rather than traditional hand-held devices. The idea was that such products would allow drivers to keep their hands and eyes on the road. 

However, the study confirms that drivers were still quite distracted by efforts to multi-task behind the wheel. In fact, it is suggested that the cognitive distraction of trying to navigate email or Facebook by voice activation is just as bad as if a person was using a hand-held device. 

Being distracted can mean that a driver's reflexes are markedly decreased. When people's minds wander to things other than driving, they scan the roads around them less often, which can make it more likely that they will not see a pedestrian crossing the road or backed up traffic in front of them.

Distracted driving accidents are far too common in Iowa. Drivers who were using a cellphone or other electronic device were involved in 27 fatal accidents and thousands of injury-causing accidents between 2001 and 2011, according to the Iowa Department of Transportation. Victims of these devastating crashes have the right to hold a negligent driver accountable for medical bills, lost wages and emotional damages sustained as a result of an accident. 

Source: Des Moines Register, "Hands-free devices not risk-free," June 12, 2013

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