Distracted driving is not a new phenomenon however, the topic gets much more attention now than it has in the past and that’s largely due to awareness campaigns put forth by organizations such as the Transport Accident Commission and Road Safety Victoria. Henry Carus is here today to talk with us about distracted driving, the dangers of it, and what people can do to protect themselves. So, Henry, thanks for being here today.

Henry: It is my pleasure, Cindy.

Cindy: Henry, I want to get your thoughts on a couple of statistics noted on the Road Safety Victoria website. The first one is that the use of a mobile phone while driving increases the risk of being in a crash by up to 4 times. What do you say to that?

Henry: It’s very accurate. I’ve been doing a bit of research into the subject quite a bit and mobile phones are just adding one more dangerous level to the amount of distraction that a driver has on the road and that extra level of distraction is what’s pushing those statistics so hard.

Cindy: Okay. Henry, I have another statistic for you, 80% of crashes and 65% of near crashes involve driver inattention in the few seconds prior to the onset of the crash or near crash according to a comprehensive US study. That is just alarming!

Henry: Look, it’s more than alarming, it makes getting into a car extremely dangerous at the moment. The amount of attention that is being demanded of a driver away from the driving is incredible. The statistics are out there in all directions. We’ve got the simple distraction of just having a passenger in a car speaking to you. You’ve got the distraction of the actual car itself with all of its devices that it normally has and now you’ve got a whole level of distraction being brought in by the technology that’s being made available to us. We’ve got the in-car systems that allow you to engage in so many different interactions and we’ve got these devices called mobile phones which are also providing us with a tremendous level of distraction. All combined is a recipe for disaster on the roads today.

Cindy: It certainly is. It’s interesting that you noted that even talking with your passenger gives some level of distraction.

Henry: I just looked at a study that was released that says that having a passenger in your vehicle alone increases the chances of having a serious accident by 60%, just the passenger being in the vehicle. The suggestion at the end of the article is drive alone. But that’s almost not possible these days because as you drive left and right you look and everyone is talking and you’re thinking, “Are they talking to themselves?” No way. They’re talking to someone on some device. They’re talking to their phone or they’re talking to the Bluetooth device on their car, they’re talking and their minds are not on the road.

Cindy: And that’s so true. Henry, what about those drivers that are driving while seriously sleep deprived?

Henry: Look, sleep deprivation is an interesting concept. We see it in our environment regularly when it comes to long distance truck drivers, people who work 24-hour type shifts, people who have demanding jobs that work during the evenings but day to day in daylight to be sleep deprived that’s something that will be sneaking up on us probably because these devices that we’re getting very much attached to whether they be mobile phones or computers or iPads are asking us to stay up late at night to engage in activities that we normally wouldn’t do instead of sleeping.

Cindy: That’s a great point. Henry, what about if you’re in an accident and you suspect that the at fault driver was driving distracted but you’re not sure, what can you do?

Henry: Well at the moment you really are at the mercy of whatever the police decide to do. If it’s a serious accident or a fatality the laws in Victoria provide for the police to actually look into and prosecute the person who’s involved in that accident and they will probably look at the issue of whether or not a mobile phone has been used at the time the accident occurred. But if it’s not what the police consider to be a serious accident and if it’s not a fatality you’re not really in a position as an injured person to demand that person who’s driving to produce to you their records or their mobile phone in order to find out whether or not the person was on the phone at the time the accident occurred. You’re at the mercy of basically not having that information available to you at that point in time. That can change if for instance you hire a law firm and they engage in litigation for you to seek compensation. There’s a suspicion that maybe you were distracted at the time and in that process you can eventually look into whether or not that person was on the phone at the time the accident occurred but that’s way down the road from the time the accident occurred and the person who’s injured has been left with a tremendous amount of doubt in their minds as to whether or not the person driving was really driving at the time the accident occurred.

Cindy: Valuable information. Henry, if someone has been in an accident and wants to reach you, how can they do that?

Henry: Well, we’re available 24 hours a day essentially to help someone out. They can contact our office by either an e-mail or by our phone number. The e-mail address is available on our website which is hcalawyers.com.au and our phone number here is 900-1-1318. There’s also an 800 number that they can use. We’re available to answer their questions at any time and more importantly we’re able to assist them in understanding what their rights are if they are injured in an accident where they suspect the other person was distracted whether by one reason or another.

Cindy: Henry, thank you so much for your time today.

Henry: Thank you, Cindy. It’s a real pleasure.

Cindy: Until next time, this is Cindy Speaker for Victoria Law TV.