VanMeveren Law Group January 2018

Foundations 9 7 0

There are many things on the road and in our cars that cause motorists to drive carelessly. In the vehicle, we can become distracted by food, passengers, putting on makeup, changing the radio station, sending a text, and a host of other activities. A driver’s mental state can also negatively impact driving behavior. You may be overly tired, emotional, or maybe you’re too focused on navigating through busy traffic. Unfortunately, these distracted mindsets can influence the way we drive. They can cause us to swerve, overcorrect, and drive too slow or too fast. While those careless behaviors rarely result in fatalities, others do — namely, driving while intoxicated. Drunk driving is the most reckless activity you can engage in. Consider this: One person is killed in a drunk driving accident every 50 minutes. But what about marijuana? It seems we can all agree that drunk driving is the most careless and dangerous act a driver can engage in. But is being under the influence of marijuana the second-most dangerous activity? The answer is no. A recent survey by Harris Poll on behalf of the Property Casualty Insurers Association of America found that while the vast majority of Americans believe driving under the influence of marijuana is dangerous, an overwhelming percentage consider texting while behind the wheel even more of a problem. A study conducted by AT&T backs this up. About 94 percent of people surveyed agree texting and driving is a thoughtless and dangerous activity. Texting makes a crash 23 times more likely to occur. In fact, drivers who text spend an average of 10 percent of their trip driving outside of their lane. Texting while behind the wheel causes 11 deaths every single day.

Does this mean people think driving high is safe? Not at all. According to the AT&T survey, 91 percent of Americans believe driving while under the influence of marijuana is dangerous and 87 percent believe people who do so pose a threat to others on the road. However, just 40 percent of respondents believe driving while high is a contributing factor to more motor vehicle accidents. The bottom line is that while marijuana does compromise a person’s motor functions, more Americans think using social media (99 percent) and texting (98 percent) while driving is more dangerous than driving under the influence of marijuana (91 percent). It is illegal to text while driving in Colorado, except in the case of emergencies like reporting an accident or a fire (C.R.S §42-4-239). You can be fined for texting and driving, but unfortunately, most drivers are willing to chance an expensive ticket so they can tell their friends they’re running late or finalize date plans. However, please keep in mind that careless or distracted driving could end up with far more serious consequences for both you and the victim. Think about it this way: Do you know what can happen when you spend five seconds texting or glancing at social media while traveling at 55 miles per hour? Imagine driving down the length of a football field with your eyes closed. A lot can happen in a very short time speeding down a busy highway. In December 2017, a Douglas County woman was charged with careless driving resulting in death in a car and bicycle collision. The Douglas County Sheriff’s Department has not released the details about what caused the accident, which took place in November 2017, other than the driver drifted into the cyclist’s lane, killing him.

Cyclists and pedestrians are among the most vulnerable people we share the road with. Colorado requires that cars maintain at least a three- foot distance between car and bicyclist (C.R.S. §42-4- 1003). This space requirement includes all mirrors and projections from the passing vehicle. The three-foot rule requirement was put into place, in part, to account for minor slips in attention. There are additional laws protecting bicyclists and pedestrians from careless, negligent, and inattentive motorists. Violations of these laws can expose the bad driver to an array of misdemeanor and felony charges, as well as thousands of dollars in fines and legal fees. –Bryan VanMeveren

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