State Patrol: Distracted Drivers Cause Serious Injuries for Trooper

It was a chilly Tuesday night when Trooper Michael Patoc pulled over to help a disabled vehicle that was blocking the lane of eastbound Interstate 90 in Bellevue. Although his flashing lights were on, he was not in the car when a 24-year-old Snoqualmie woman crashed into the back of his patrol car. The impact of the crash sent the patrol car into the disabled vehicle, which hit Trooper Patoc, throwing him several feet.

She had been adjusting her dash controls and failed to notice that the WSP vehicle was not moving. The driver hit the parked car at freeway speeds.

Trooper Patoc suffered serious injuries and was taken to Overlake Hospital. The state patrol is reminding all drivers that distracted driving doesn’t just refer to no cell phones when driving.  “It appears the causing driver in this instance was distracted. It’s important to remember that although cell phones as distraction have been paramount in the media lately, all distractions are hazardous while driving. Our message is simple–When you are driving, focus on driving. This crash was entirely avoidable had the driver been paying attention. I am grateful that as serious as the injuries to the trooper are, they aren’t any worse.”

Distracted Driving Disasters

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration defines distracted driving as any activity that diverts attention from driving, including talking or texting on your phone, eating and drinking, talking to people in your vehicle, fiddling with the stereo, entertainment or navigation system—anything that takes your attention away from the task of safe driving.

One of the most prevalent driving behaviors behind distracted driving is mobile technology–or in basic terms–cell phones. In our culture of instant messaging, texting and cell phone usage has become the most alarming cause of and increase in auto accidents. Sending or reading a text may only takes your eyes off the road for 5 seconds. But at 55 mph, that’s like driving the length of an entire football field with your eyes closed. Imagine that!

You cannot drive safely unless the task of driving has your full attention. Any non-driving activity you engage in is a potential distraction and increases your risk of crashing.

Three Forms of Distraction

The causes of distracted driving have no bounds, as seen by the driver in Bellevue. Adjusting dials or radio stations, heat controls, and even GPS screens can take our eyes and attention from the road ahead of us. Some of the reasons is because distracted driving comes in three forms: cognitive, visual, and manual. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), cognitive distractions are when a driver’s mind isn’t focused on driving. Visual distractions occur when the driver looks at anything but the road ahead. Manual distractions occur when the driver takes one or both hands off the wheel.

What Can You Do?

Here are some Safe Driving Tips that everyone can personalize and use to improve their driving behaviors and habits. Because bottom line–preventing distracted driving is good for everyone on the road!

  • Anticipate Your Digital Needs before you even start the motor!

    Make a habit of thinking about what calls or texts you need to send before you begin your trip. Before you start the car, take a moment to think about what information you might need during the trip. For instance, program your GPS at the outset, rather than fiddling with it during the drive. Make that call to ask your mom a question before you’re on the road. Text your friend that vital piece of gossip, then put away the phone.

  • Plan for a safe ride ahead of time!

    The idea of a designated driver has caught on for drunk driving, and choosing a substitute can be just as useful for distracted driving. Select a friend to be your designated texter while you’re behind the wheel.

  • Put it away!

    Stow your phone somewhere you can’t peek at it. Try putting it in the glove compartment (lock it if you must) or inside a purse in the back seat.

  • Silence is Golden…which is actually a code word for SAFE!

    Silence notifications that tempt you to check your phone.

  • We’re all tempted at times-so Get Help!

    Investigate apps that will help boost your willpower. There are several types of apps on the market, some of them free, that allow you to block incoming messages or send automatic responses to let your friends know you’re driving.

  • Patience is a Virtue.

    Practice patience. Consider whether it’s worth risking your safety—and that of others in your car and on the road—to read a text while driving. Then wait until you’ve reached your destination.

  • Even Pinky Promises can save lives!

    Make a promise. If you are a person of your word, consider signing the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s pledge against distracted driving. Picturing your name on the pledge could help you keep your thumbs off the phone.

  • Can’t Endure to the End?

    If you absolutely cannot wait, pull over when you can do so safely. Swerving to the side of a busy highway is never a good option, of course. If you are driving on a road with safe places to pull over, use them to stop and text.

Auto Accident & Personal Injury Lawyers Are Here to Help

If you or a loved one has been injured in a car accident caused by possible negligence or a distracted driver, call Fielding Law Group today for a free consultation with one of our experienced attorneys.  Our team of professionals will work hard to get you the compensation you deserve so you can recover and get on with your life. Remember–Don’t let an accident wreck YOU!