In early January 2015 a man in Georgia was issued a ticket for eating a cheeseburger while driving. Though it seems like an odd citation, eating while driving falls under the umbrella of distracted driving – not only in Georgia, but right here in Tennessee as well. In fact, there are a number of activities that many people perform while driving that might also result in a ticket, such as:
- Changing the radio station
- Applying makeup
- Reading a map or fiddling with a GPS
- Using a mobile device
Distracted driving is incredibly dangerous, and any action that is not directly related to the act of driving can be construed as a distraction. In 2014, Tennessee drivers were in 14,389 car crashes caused by distracted driving while using an electronic device; 225 of them were here in Blount County. Countless others may have resulted from drivers eating, drinking or performing other actions while in the car.
Protecting yourself from distracted drivers
You cannot always control how other drivers behave – but you can take some preventative measures to protect yourself in case of an accident, or to help avoid an accident altogether. As a driver, you can:
- Always wear your seatbelt. The Governor’s Highway Safety Office reports that “more than 60% of vehicle occupants killed in crashes in Tennessee were not wearing safety belts. Research shows it is almost nine times safer to wear your safety belt.” (Emphasis mine.)
- Keep your tires full. Underinflated tires can make it more difficult to stop at a safe distance, are more prone to blow outs, and can make it more difficult to handle your car while driving.
- Be aware of your surroundings. It can be tempting to “zone out” while you are driving a familiar stretch of road, but you should be aware of other cars at all times. Knowing where those cars are in relation to you, as well as where it is safe to pull over, may help you avoid an accident with a distracted or speeding driver.
- Turn your cell phone off. It is safer all around to simply turn your phone off. You can avoid the temptation of using it, and avoid becoming a part of the problem instead of a part of the solution.
- Make sure your children are restrained properly. Tennessee has laws about how a child should be restrained. Make sure your children are as protected as you are while in the car.
- Avoid late night driving when possible. If you can keep off the roads late at night, you are better off. It can be hard to see around blind curves or in the lights of an oncoming car, and your chances of hitting a deer, or being hit by an intoxicated driver, increase at night.
I want you to be safe while you drive. If you want to grab a burger, go right ahead – but wait until you get home to eat, or eat in the parking lot. If you were in a car accident involving a distracted driver, you can contact my office – Kevin W. Shepherd, Attorney at Law – for more information about your rights.