Carter Craig, Attorneys at Law

NSC survey: driver distraction affects safety of first responders

Many drivers in Virginia, as elsewhere, become distracted when they pass an emergency vehicle on the side of the road. Even worse, many will take photos or videos of the vehicles regardless of whether the vehicles are making a routine traffic stop or responding to a car crash or a fire. All of this compromises the safety of those first responders who get out of the vehicles to help others.

In time for Distracted Driving Awareness Month (April), the National Safety Council has released the results of a survey it conducted together with the Emergency Responder Safety Institute. Seventy-one percent of respondents said they take photos or videos when they see emergency vehicles, while 66 percent said they send emails about it and 60 percent said they post about it on social media: all while behind the wheel.

Even under normal driving conditions, 24 percent said they send emails or take photos and videos while on the road, and 29 percent said they use social media. Eighty-nine percent recognized the danger that distractions pose to first responders, yet only 19 percent admitted that their own inattentive driving poses such a danger.

Two-thirds were aware of "Move Over" laws, and 73 percent said they move over for emergency vehicles stopped on the roadside. Eighty percent, though, say they slow down to see the vehicles.

Emergency responders who are injured in a car accident may have a viable personal injury case . It depends on having proof that the driver was distracted, drunk, drowsy or negligent in some other way. Distracted driving can be hard to prove since drivers can lie about their actions prior to a crash, but if a phone was involved, it might be a matter of obtaining the phone record. To file a claim, victims may want legal assistance

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