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Distracted driving fuels rise in crashes, fatalities

A man texting and driving

People drive distracted on highways, backroads, rural routes, private drives, you name it - but in some places, the car accidents they cause are more deadly than others.

The people on "Death Boulevard" know this all too well.

Recently, over the course of one year, a 0.4 mile stretch of Ella T. Grasso Boulevard in New Haven was home to 4 of the city’s 9 car vs. pedestrian deaths.

Residents and some local politicians agree improvements to the section between Columbus Avenue and Adeline Street could be made to better protect walkers, joggers, and cyclists, but the real problem can’t be fixed with paint, pavement, and mortar alone.

Driver behaviors need to be addressed. Distracted driving is helping to fuel a spike in pedestrian deaths in Connecticut and across the country.

In the more than 25 years that Vishno Law Firm has been practicing in Fairfield and New Haven counties, we’ve seen the way hand-held devices have changed what it means to be driving a car, truck, or motorcycle. The change has been toward more risk, but it’s far past time for another change and a pivot to safety. Because it’s often a personal choice, distracted driving is one of the most preventable causes of car accidents on the road.

April is National Distracted Driving Awareness Month. This year’s campaign includes increased police presence and enforcement of anti-distracted driving laws. There is also a media push to promote safe driving and things you can do to remove distractions from your vehicle.

Distracted driving was a factor in more than 3,000 deaths in 2019, according to the most recent information available from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

The total represents 10% more fatalities (about 300 people) than the prior year.

Fatalities from pedestrian accidents caused by distracted driving have also increased. Nationwide, hundreds of people on foot are killed by distracted drivers each year. In 2020, about 1% of those fatalities were on Death Boulevard.

What is distracted driving?

While cellphone accidents and texting while driving are cited as two of the top causes of car accidents in Connecticut, distracted driving encompasses a number of behaviors that take a driver's attention away from the road, including

  • Talking to passengers
  • Eating and drinking
  • Reading GPS directions
  • Having pets in the vehicle
  • Looking at maps
  • Adjusting a radio or audio device
  • Watching a video
  • Self-grooming

At Vishno Law Firm, we have represented many victims of distracted driving accidents in New Haven, Bridgeport, Stamford, Danbury, Norwalk, and Waterbury. Inspired by the national awareness campaign, here are some tips on how you can avoid distracted driving.

How to stop distracted driving

When you get behind the wheel, be an example to your family and friends by putting your phone away. Texting while driving isn’t trendy “normal” behavior — it’s a selfish, deadly and, oftentimes, illegal activity that could kill you, a loved one, a friend, or a stranger.

  • Pull Over. If you want to check the alert notification dinging on your phone or send a text, pull over to the side of the road and use your phone there. Stopping at a gas station or parking lot is better than stopping on the side of the road. Pulling over is also advisable if you want to update GPS map settings or search for music.
  • Designate a “texter.” Have a passenger hold onto your phone. That person can read your texts out loud and respond to them for you, enter directions, or whatever else you may need.
  • Store Your Phone Where You Can’t Get It. If having a phone nearby is too much of a temptation, it is best to remove that siren song from the driver’s seat. Store your phone in your trunk, glove box, or another place where you will not be able to access it while driving.
  • Skip the Scroll. Do not engage in social media scrolling or messaging while driving.
  • Speak Up. If you see something, say something. If your friends text while driving, tell them to stop.
  • Listen to Your Passengers. If they catch you texting while driving and tell you to put your phone away, put it down.

Connecticut Distracted Driving Laws

For the most part, Connecticut drivers are prohibited from using cellphones, smartphones, and other wireless devices.

You are not allowed to use handheld devices while driving a vehicle that is in motion or when you are temporarily stopped, like at a red light, for example. The only time hand-held communication, mobile electronic devices, and other wireless technology can be used by a driver in a vehicle is when the car, truck, or motorcycle is parked.

Exceptions are made for communicating with emergency responders in an emergency and people using hands-free devices.

The hands-free devices exception is not extended to drivers under the age of 18 and school bus drivers.

Penalties for violating Connecticut's distracted driving laws are a $150 fine for a first offense, $300 for a second offense, and $500 for third and subsequent offenses.

Hold negligent drivers accountable with Vishno Law Firm

If you or a loved one was injured in an accident caused by a distracted driver, it may look like you have a straightforward case that can be handled quickly and fairly by the insurance companies.

At Vishno Law Firm, we know looks can be deceiving and there is no such thing as a straightforward claim when you’re dealing with insurance adjusters.

It’s often left up to the victim - the person who was just injured - to collect evidence, deal with the insurance company, and fight for appropriate compensation.

Fairfield County attorney Jeremy Vishno can take on the insurance companies for you. Our legal team knows how to conduct a crash investigation and find evidence to support your claim. We have more than 25 years of experience. We know the insurance company’s tricks. And we know how to stop them cold.

Vishno Law Firm has won millions of dollars in settlements and verdicts. We treat our clients with fairness and will provide you with personal one-on-one attention so that we can better understand your case and your needs.

Contact us today for a free consultation.

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