Talk to them. Don’t lecture, talk. Have a heart-to-heart discussion about the dangers and the consequences of texting or talking without hands-free while driving. If the driver is your child, be a parent, not a friend, no matter the age. Please continue to encourage them every time they get into a car to not text and drive. If you get a call without your child using a hands-free device or a text, ask them if they are driving. If they say yes, don’t respond or tell them you will hang up until they are safe to talk. Keep up the pressure. It doesn’t matter how angry they may get; at least they’ll be alive and uninjured. Someday they will thank you.
If you find yourself as a passenger in a car driven by someone texting or behaving in another distracted manner, calmly ask them to put down their phone, stop the distracting activity, and keep their eyes on the road. You would be better off having them stop and let you out where it is safe than to risk your life at the hands of a distracted driver. It might cost you a taxi or Uber ride to your destination, but at least you would be safe. Asking them to pull over at the next opportunity to let you out might make an impression and stop them from texting.
1. Body activities. A driver becomes distracted while putting on make-up or shaving. Yes, I have seen guys with their cordless shavers exceeding the speed limit, late for work, looking in the rear-view mirror to make sure they don’t miss a spot. If you reach into the bag to look for that last french fry or try stuffing that monster burger that drips sauce all down your shirt, that’s distracted driving. Changing the radio station or searching for a song on the dashboard display requires you to take your eyes off the road. Smokers, have you ever stuck a cigarette in your mouth and spent several minutes shaking, trying to milk the last of the butane out of your lighter? Parents know how frustrating it is to have children buckled in the back seat fighting, yelling, or throwing stuff at each other. The temptation to turn around, reach back to settle them, and take one’s eyes off the road is strong. You’d be better off pulling over where it is safe to do any of these. All this monkey business and more pulls your attention away from the most critical activity that requires your complete attention.
2. Emotional State. Your mental state is a little different from driving impaired, where you are under the influence of a substance. Perhaps you receive the terrible news that someone you love suffered injury or death and you need to get to where they are as soon as possible. It might be a good idea to ask someone else to drive you. Maybe you fought with your partner, and you decide clearing your head means getting in your car. It’s surprising how many people get behind the wheel to leave after an argument. A walk might be the better choice.
3. New route. Driving through unfamiliar territory can be distracting. Your eyes may wander to foreign landmarks, or you may not know which way to turn. Fiddling with an app on your phone on an untraveled street or highway forces your fingers and eyes away. Check the route before you start the car. Follow the path to your destination on your phone or computer before leaving, watching the turns and distances. You’ll be familiar with the course, and the voice instructions from the app will make more sense as you drive, keeping your eyes on the road. Scenic drives often entice the driver to look. Find a place to pull over and park if you encounter that breath-taking panorama or feature that you must enjoy.
4. Electronic devices. Cell phones, smartphones, personal mp3 players, and other hand or palm devices attach to our hands like extra appendages. It won’t be long before science figures out a way to connect us directly to our gadgets. Meanwhile, we still interface with them through hearing, sight, and touch, all of which take us away from driving an automobile safely.
I will not bore or scare you with all the statistics of how many people die each month or year in car accidents. All I can tell you is I have been a near victim of a distracted driver. As a pedestrian in a crosswalk, I had to jump out of the way to avoid being hit. She was so engrossed in her telephone conversation that she ran a red light and crossed tracks, barely escaping being hit by a 50-ton transit train. The driver kept going, oblivious to what had just happened.
Auto insurance claims departments are keeping track of how many accidents involve a distracted driver. The figures are staggering. Oregon passed in 2010 one of the strictest driving while distracted laws in the nation. However, I still see several drivers a day talking on the phone and texting. Because of a loophole or ambiguity in the law, it was revised and clarified that only emergency personnel and public utility workers while on duty may use cell phones up to the ear. All others must use a hands-free device. Under 18 are restricted from use entirely, with or without a hands-free device. The ambiguity before under the 2010 law was that self-employed drivers who depended on driving a lot for a living were exempt from the hands-free law. As of January 1, 2012, the law is unambiguous. All drivers, including self-employed business owners who use their cars to conduct business, must obey the hands-free device law or be cited for driving distracted.
Hands-free devices have come down in price. Most new cars have a Bluetooth option built into the automobile. A driver who must communicate through these devices has no excuse not to purchase and use one or learn how to connect to the car. The cost of a ticket and the increased cost of car insurance would pay for ten hands-free appliances. I would suggest that you prepare all of that hardware before you start the engine. And, if you can avoid the use of that technology altogether, do so. You might save your life or someone else’s. Pay attention to the road and traffic control devices. Watch out for pedestrians and other drivers who are careless with the use of their telephones. Your reaction time is impaired if you must figure out how to put down your phone while avoiding a collision. No one wants to drop their phone on the ground. Stop monkeying around.
That’s not true. Some auto insurance companies have taken a hard stance against distracted driving. The auto insurance company sees improper use of a phone while driving, usually falling under the distracted driving category, as a serious offense. Most assign a major violation charge to this type of infraction. You could expect the insurer to raise your rates by as much as 25% if convicted of a cell phone ticket.
The best way to avoid such a major violation is not to use any device while driving. Imagine what driving was like before the invention of smartphones. People usually made it just fine to their destination. If a car broke down on a highway, a payphone was nearby, or someone was willing to get help. That’s when a portable phone today would be handy. At least you stopped and can’t harm yourself or others because of talking or texting and driving.
The following best way to not get a distracted driving ticket is to use a hands-free device. Most new cars have Bluetooth technology built into the car, where you can talk out loud to a hidden microphone and listen to the caller through the stereo speakers. Answering and hanging up on a call is as simple as pressing a button somewhere on your steering wheel.
The answer is, it depends. In Oregon, if you have auto insurance or live in a house that does, then any injury you sustain in an automobile-related accident would first be paid by that auto insurance, even if you have health insurance. A car crash victim will often arrive at an emergency room and show their health insurance card rather than the auto insurance identification card. If the victim was a passenger in a vehicle belonging to someone else, the patient might not show proof of the auto insurance belonging to the car’s driver in which they suffered injuries, regardless of fault.
I know, it gets complicated. Let’s simplify. If you were injured in a car crash, auto insurance pays first if available. If not available, your health insurance pays, but the clinic or hospital will seek reimbursement from the responsible auto insurance carrier.
In Oregon, auto insurance policies have a minimum limit of $15,000 in Personal Injury Protection (PIP) benefits that pay per person regardless of fault, whether a driver, passenger, or pedestrian. You might be entitled to two times that amount if you were riding with a friend while your automobile remains parked in your driveway at home. We call this stacking the limits. Your friend’s car insurance will most likely pay first, and then yours will pick up the difference.
“What happens if my friend doesn’t have insurance?” you ask. Then your PIP benefits will trigger first, and your friend will get into trouble for not having coverage at the time of the accident.
Now, this all doesn’t consider the fault of the accident. If you are at fault, your benefits stop at the $15,000 or whatever higher limit you and your agent chose. If you were not at fault, then the limits of bodily injury liability of the other driver who hit you, if they have insurance, will pay above and beyond your PIP limits.
Let’s say the other at-fault party has $100,000 liability coverage, and your injuries exceed that amount. You have coverage on your policy for what is called uninsured or underinsured motorist coverage. Your insurance could then pay that excess amount up to the limit you have of underinsured motorist benefits. As you can see, the coverages can stack up like that in Oregon.
Finally, let’s pretend that your injuries go beyond what all your available auto insurance will pay. Then is when your health insurance, after its deductibles and copays, might kick in.
Talk to your agent about what limits for PIP and uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage you have.
The limits in your auto insurance policy are dollar amounts the insurance company will pay in benefits to you or someone else on your behalf. The declaration page of your contract will spell out what each limit is and which coverage applies.
Increasing your limits beyond what is mandatory by law is something you must consciously decide. Why would you want to? Why spend more money than you are required? Here are three things to consider.
1. The limit of liability represents how much the company will pay the party you injured. Imagine their injuries exceed the amount of coverage you have. Who pays the extra? You do—out of your pocket, your bank account, your personal assets. You could lose everything because you didn’t select a liability limit high enough. Why would the other’s injuries cost so much? Have you checked the cost of an ambulance ride, surgery, ongoing hospital care, especially if they must be kept in an intensive care unit? We’re talking thousands of dollars a day.
The limit you pick to cover others is also tied to how much you protect yourself and your passengers. It’s called uninsured/underinsured motorist bodily injury. Let’s say someone hits you but doesn’t have insurance, and they don’t have any assets to claim in a lawsuit. Your company will pay you for your injuries as if they had coverage. Are your costs to recover after an accident any less than the one you might injure?
2. If you crash into someone’s property, let alone what injury you might cause them, how much will your insurance company pay for the damages? Property can be another car, truck, school bus, train, building, fence, or power pole. You get the picture. The law in Oregon says you must purchase at least $20,000 for property damage liability. Have you checked the prices of cars lately? A power pole is about $50,000 to replace if you shear it off, not to mention the loss of power to the customers the utility serves if they want to sue you for disruption. What if you rear-end someone? How much will it cost you for causing a chain reaction where you end up responsible for five automobiles?
3. Now is the hard part. With guidance from your agent, you must decide how much coverage you should have and balance it with what you can afford. Doubling your limits doesn’t mean doubling the cost. You might decide to go with a higher deductible on your collision coverage so you can afford to buy higher liability. Consider your driving habits. If you drive long distances and are always in a hurry, your driving record might reflect your tendency toward tickets and accidents. You might be especially prone to accidents and big ones. Higher limits might suit you best. If you hardly drive and are always cautious, you might get away with lower limits. Maybe you are on a fixed income and can’t afford higher than minimum limits. Your agent will help you explore all these possibilities.