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Kansas Drops Bill To Curb Fatal Distracted Driving Accidents

Kansas man checks email on his phone while driving on I-35.

April is Distracted Driving Awareness Month—and drivers should remember to stay focused

Distracted driving is one of the most deadly and preventable causes of car accidents in Kansas.

While this type of bad driving behavior is blamed for causing thousands of fatal accidents across the U.S. each year, the problem is particularly pronounced in Kansas. Our rate of fatal distracted driving car accidents is more than twice the national rate. Kansas has about 28.8 fatalities due to distracted driving per 10 billion miles traveled. Nationwide, it's 10.2, according to a ValuePenguin study.

Recent examples include a distracted driver who rear-ended a semi-truck on I-35 in Emporia last month and, in February, distracted driving may have been a factor in an I-235 head-on crash that killed two people in Wichita.

This April is Distracted Driving Awareness month, and in Kansas, the time is being used to alert people to the dangers and push politicians to act. Traffic safety advocates say that Kansas could significantly reduce distracted driving accidents through legislation. Politicians may agree, but action has been delayed.

Kansas' distracted driving problem

Kansas has one of the highest rates of distracted driving accidents in the country. About one out of every four car accidents here is caused by distracted driving. Last year, only five other states reported more accidents due to distractions.

Distracted driving happens whenever the operator of a moving motor vehicle takes their eyes off the road, hands off the wheel, or attention away from driving. Cell phone use is a frequent source of driver distraction. Other activities considered distracted driving include adjusting the radio, applying makeup, eating, drinking, or talking with passengers.

The state banned texting and driving in 2011 but allows people to use handheld devices to make and receive phone calls and messages regarding travel directions and weather alerts.

In an attempt to tamp down the risk, Kansas state legislators considered a tougher law that would ban handheld device use for drivers under 18. It would have also banned the use of handheld devices in work and school zones during designated hours. However, the bill was tabled.

Disappointed safety advocates note the success of other states that have adopted such laws. In Georgia, for example, fatalities are down 7 percent since passing a hands-free law in 2018. They hope the tabled bill, or similar legislation, will be reintroduced in Kansas.

Distracted or drunk driving?

One of the biggest obstacles to reducing distracted driving accidents is getting people to take the threat seriously. Most people understand that driving distracted is dangerous, according to a AAA poll, but about one-third admit to doing it anyway within the last 30 days.

So, here's a reminder of the risk - Driving distracted is so dangerous, it can be difficult to tell the difference between a drunk driver and a distracted one.

They both have slow reactions times, drive at erratic speeds, weave around lanes, and brake unexpectedly. In 2019, distracted driving killed 155 people in Kansas. Drunk driving killed 91.

What to do if you're injured by a distracted driver

Distracted driving is reckless and dangerous. It is also highly preventable. To reduce the temptation to drive distracted, the federal highway administration suggests using your phone's "do not disturb" feature or putting your device in the trunk while driving so you're not tempted to reach for it.

If you were injured or a loved one died in a Kansas crash caused by a distracted driver, you should talk to a car accident lawyer to go over your legal rights and options. At Warner Law Offices, our attorneys have a reputation for getting clients the compensation they need and deserve.

Discover what our law firm can do for you and contact us today for a free case consultation. We are based in Wichita and proudly serve all of Kansas.

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