Each year, the National Safety Council publishes a new edition of “Injury Facts” which reviews safety trends across the country. The 2014 edition included several facts about driving and cellphone use.
While news about distracted driving is plentiful, it may be that the public has become jaded to all the warnings about using cellphones while driving. Even the proliferation of laws designed to prevent it and ensure road safety haven’t seemed to have much of an impact. According to statistics from the report, cellphones are now a factor in 26 percent of all motor vehicle accidents, which is an increase from 2013 numbers. While many may assume that texting is the primary culprit, actually only about five percent of those crashes were attributed to texting. The other 21 percent involved talking on handheld or hands-free phones.
In Alaska, using electronic devices while driving is a criminal offense. Alaska law defines this as driving while “the person is reading or typing a text message or other nonvoice message or communication on a cellular telephone”. Just being caught in the act is a class A misdemeanor with fines of up to $10,000 and up to a year in prison. And the penalties escalate if an accident occurs: if someone dies as a result of the accident, the penalty is a class A felony. Class A felonies in Alaska are punishable by up to 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000.
But these are only the criminal penalties. While these can ruin the life of the person who commits the offense by saddling him or her with a criminal record, the real tragedy is the ruined, or even lost, life of an innocent victim. No amount of monetary compensation can replace a life or make up for the pain and suffering of recovery from injuries from an accident. If you or a loved one has been the victim of an accident caused by someone who was irresponsibly using a cell phone, contact an experienced and reputable personal injury attorney in Alaska for advice on what your rights may be.
Merdes Law Office has helped injured Alaskans for more than 25 years, it’s who we are. And while we hope you never need us… we’re here if you do.