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Death by Cell Phone vs. Death by Shark Bite

distracteddriving-virginia-cell-phone-accidents-vs-shark-summer-2015

What’s the Riskiest Thing You’ll Do This Summer?

There has been a lot of talk this summer about shark attacks, and many beachgoers in Virginia and the Carolinas are so afraid of being bitten that they are staying out of the water.  But the reality is that there is a MUCH higher chance of death and injury in a car accident or bike accident than by shark attack.  The National Safety Council puts the risk of death by motor vehicle crash at 1 in 112, meaning that nearly 1% of us will have our life end in a car crash.  The risk of dying in a cycling accident is about 1 in 4,500.  And the risk of death by shark attack is about 1 in 3,750,000.

DEATH RISK for Americans

  • Cell Phone Use Car Accidents:  1 out of every 450 people
  • Shark Attack:  1 out of every 3,750,000 people

Real Dangers.  With these statistics, it seems logical that we would put a lot more time and energy into the prevention of injury in auto accidents than in shark encounters, and fortunately a lot of serious people do, funded by government agencies and some of the large insurance companies who have a strong financial interest in the issue.  What they have found is that, after decades of pretty steady decline, the number of auto fatalities in the United States has leveled off in recent years at about 33,000.  An additional 2.3 million people are injured.  This leveling is happening despite major improvements in engineering safety, and the main culprit appears to be Distracted Driving which now causes 1 out of every 4 crashes.  There are a lot of nuances to these statistics, but this means that roughly 1 in 450 people in the U.S. will die because of car accidents in which cell phone use is involved.

Cell Phone vs. Drunk Driving.  Its pretty clear that Virginians should worry a lot more about using their cell phones while driving than about body surfing in the Outer Banks, but how about cell phone use versus drunk driving?  There has been a lot of research on this, and the conclusions indicate that driver performance while using cell phones is every bit as bad as drunk driving.  A much-cited 2009 Virginia Tech study  indicated that truck drivers are 23 times more likely to get in a crash or have a near miss while texting.  Other studies indicate that drunk driving at blood alcohol levels around the typical legal limit of 0.08 increase the chance of a crash by 4-5 times.  Looking at a variety of new studies, simply dialing and talking on a cell phone comes in at about a 5-6 times increase in accident risk.  One of the top experts on the subject is Paul Atchley from the University of Kansas, and we highly recommend this short video for everyone who they are capable of safely navigating the roads while using their phones.

Though we don’t like to admit it to ourselves, driving a car is one of the most dangerous things we do in our daily life, and using a cell phone while multiplies that risk to intolerable levels.  At Burnett & Williams, every day our practice in brings us close to clients in northern Virginia and the Richmond/Tri-Cities region who have had their lives changed irrevocably  by serious car accidents.  All of them wish they could rewind time and change the course of events.  It is never possible to do that, so we put our efforts into helping them get the resources needed to rebuild their lives on a new course, and to help keep them from getting in similar situations in the future.