In our fast-paced world, distractions are rampant. Technological innovation has given us so many options vying for our attention, which is a very lucrative business. Smart phones are everywhere, and contain a tiny universe of information packaged in colors, sounds and vibrations, providing endless interface as soon as we dip our attention down into the screen’s stream. There are headphones with great sound quality that bring us into our own world right in the midst of the one we share with other people. More and more people are apparently learning how to cope with being addicted to electronic devices. While distracted driving gets a lot of press because the statistics so obviously show the danger, here are a few recent studies and facts that show how being distracted impacts us in many ways. 

When asked about the Skagit River Bridge Collapse, CEO of the National Safety Council Deborah Hersman said: 

When that pilot car [height-detection pole] hit the bridge, and the antenna is wigwagging, how much situational awareness is there on behalf of that driver, to understand there’s a dangerous situation coming up?

We’ve had crash after crash, investigation after investigation, where we found people on the phone. We found pilots that were on the phone and overflew their destinations. We have barge operators that ran over boats in the middle of the channel because they were distracted by their phones and their laptops. We had bus drivers who were on hands-free cellphone conversations that literally ran into low clearance bridges, took the whole top of a bus off. We had EMS, emergency-medical-services helicopter pilot who was texting while he was transporting a patient, ran out of fuel, crashed the helicopter, killed himself, the patient, two flight paramedics.

There was no profession, no transportation mode that was immune to having people being distracted, while they were responsible for other people’s safety. It was pervasive.

Recently, a man died in Bellingham while walking along the train tracks. With hearing issues and headphones at full volume, there was no way for him to hear the warning horn from the train before it hit him. This article about a study on additudes on walking and using a smart phone show that the pedestrian was unlucky, but not alone in that behavior. 

Finding all this information has caused me to change my behavior, and to raise awareness with friends and family to raise their own awareness, and not be distracted. The brain is a serial processor, not a simultaneous one, so we simply are unable to multi-task. Remaining focused on one thing at a time is not only all we can realistically do, but it’s also the safe thing to do. Don’t gamble on luck. Please take a look at AT&T’s Tag 5 to Save 5 Campaign that encourages everyone to tell their top five most frequently contacted loved ones to not drive – or walk, boat, fly, or bike – while distracted.


Bill Coats is a personal injury attorney in Bellingham, WA who works with clients who have been injured. If you have questions about your accident and would like a free consultation, don’t hesitate to contact Bill Coats Law here. 




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