Distracted driving crashes are down, but more needs to be done

Distracted driving crashes have declined in Oklahoma, but safety experts say more can be done.

Oklahoma's recent ban on texting and driving seems to have gotten the message out that distracted driving is extremely dangerous. That's because, as the Altus Times reports, distracted driving crashes actually declined in Oklahoma last year after the state banned texting while driving. While Oklahoma's decline in distracted driving crashes is certainly a good thing and even bucks a nationwide trend that has seen an increase in such accidents, it should not be taken as a sign that distracted driving is no longer a problem on the state's roads and highways. In fact, safety advocates say that the improvements are a sign that more can and needs to be done to improve traffic safety.

Distracted driving crashes fall

Oklahoma banned texting and driving on November 1, 2015. In the nine months following that ban, the number of crashes that resulted in an injury and were caused by a driver being distracted by an electronic device stood at 422. By comparison, during that same nine-month period the year before there were 538 such crashes.

In addition, the number of fatal crashes caused by being distracted by an electronic device fell to seven from ten. Furthermore, the total number of crashes caused by being distracted by an electronic device fell from 1,291 to 1,129 between those two nine-month periods before and after the ban came into force.

More needs to be done

Those declines are a sign that drivers in Oklahoma are finally getting the message that texting and driving is not only illegal, but also dangerous. However, the improvements also show how the state could do even more to stamp out distracted driving. In fact, safety experts say much of the improvements have been not because drivers have been caught texting and driving, but because they are voluntarily putting their cellphones down while driving.

One problem is that the existing law, because it only applies to texting and driving, is extremely difficult to enforce. Drivers are often able to deny they were using their phone to text, which, due to privacy laws, is a difficult claim for a police officer to disprove. That's why, as KOCO News reports, one lawmaker is proposing expanding the state's distracted driving law by also outlawing the use of any handheld device while behind the wheel. That would make it easier for police to enforce distracted driving laws since they would not have to prove that drivers were necessarily texting while behind the wheel.

Personal injury law

While many Oklahomans are finally realizing just how deadly distracted driving is, there are still far too many motorists who continue to put the safety of the public at risk just so they can text or talk while driving. Anybody who has been hurt in a motor vehicle crash - especially if that crash was caused by a distracted driver - should contact a personal injury attorney immediately. An experienced attorney can help clients navigate the legal system and assist them with pursuing any claims they may be entitled to.