Increase in Distracted Driving Among Emergency Responders Leads to Serious Accidents
New statistics from Southern California show a rise in distracted driving accidents caused by emergency responders, such as firefighters and police officers.
On Sunday, October 5th, a Los Angeles-area newspaper reported that distracted driving accidents caused by police officers, firefighters, and EMTs in ambulances killed three Southern California residents, and injured 140 other people. In all, distracted driving among emergency responders led to 180 accidents just last year. That number was up from 165 distracted driving collisions in 2012.
The report said that distracted driving accidents caused by emergency responders had gone up 122% in the last decade. A huge factor in such collisions is an increase in in-vehicle technology such as GPS and built-in computers, which are supposed to help emergency responders get to the scene of an accident or crime more efficiently. Emergency responders also have exemptions in many states’ distracted driving laws, which allows them to use cell or smart phones as part of their job.
“Black-and-whites now are equipped with more equipment that affords faster and more accurate information to officers, but at the same time provides a certain degree of distraction while driving,” Robert Stresak, executive director of California’s Commission on Peace Officer Standards and Training, told the newspaper.
One of the distracted driving victims was 48-year-old Gregory Kirwin, whose daughters were awarded $15 million in a civil lawsuit filed after their father was rear-ended by a state fire chief who was talking on his phone, but using a hands-free device. Another victim from last year, Milton Olin, was cycling along Mulholland Drive in Los Angeles when a Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputy struck him, because the officer was distracted while typing on his patrol car computer regarding a recent fire call.
However, the number of distracted driving collisions in 2013 was still low compared to 2008’s statistics, in which the number of emergency responder-caused distracted driving collisions topped 200.
The current Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department manual prohibits cell phone use in vehicles “absent extenuating circumstances,” but there are no explicit guidelines for in-car computer use. Other Los Angeles County emergency responders have similar vague policies on computer use, including the fire department, although that department requires two in-vehicle fire fighters, and they train the passenger to use the phone, camera, or computer while the other focuses on driving.
“Do we legislate or create policies for issues that are not seriously negatively affecting public safety?” said Officer Leland Tang, a spokesman for the California Highway Patrol. “If there was this broad situation where you’re having people die in record numbers because of negligent operation of (mobile digital computers) and data shows it, then, yes.”
The Strom Law Firm Helps Those Injured by Distracted Drivers
If you have been injured by a distracted driver, the South Carolina distracted driving accident attorneys at the Strom Law Firm, L.L.C. will fight for fair compensation for your injuries. Our South Carolina car accident lawyers are prepared to fight for compensation in the courtroom and will defend your right to compensation for your past and future medical bills, lost wages and future earnings, your pain and suffering, and, in the event of a fatal car accident, even wrongful death. Our attorneys offer free, confidential consultations to discuss the facts of your personal injury case for distracted driving, so contact us today. 803.252.4800.