police officer holding cell phone while drivingDistracted driving is now the leading cause of motor vehicle accidents in the country. Distracted driving contributes to nearly nine deaths a day and injures thousands more. When our brains are forced to split its focus between the road and a phone, or any kind of device, we experience cognitive distraction.

Currently, drivers are banned from texting while driving in 30 states, yet all of those laws that apply to the general public exempt law enforcement officers. Now, concerns are being directed at the officers who are expected to police the distracted driving of the general public. As a result, alarming numbers of crashes involving pedestrians, riders and automobiles have been caused by police officers nationwide who are driving their squad cars while distracted.

Too much technology

The average person is distracted by texting and using cellphones while driving. Now, imagine you had a phone, a radio, a laptop computer AND are expected to monitor drivers around you, all at the same time and all while driving at high speeds. That’s an incredible task, and one that the most well trained and experienced officers are struggling to manage. But in today’s world, the job that officers are being asked to perform cannot be completed without the use of technology. The average squad car has been transformed into a mobile office filled with distracting equipment. These devices play an essential role, as they allow officers to write citations, run license plates, receive location data, or field calls they must respond to. While some police departments discourage the use of technology (like their onboard computers) while driving, few ban their use. In this absence we are seeing a trend in officers experiencing detrimental lapses in judgment and causing accidents.

Distractions endanger lives

Police officers are juggling more tasks than they can handle. In Milwaukee, accidents involving distracted police officers have occurred. Milwaukee Deputy Sergio Aleman was killed after striking the back of a tow truck in July 2012 while distracted by his cellphone. Many police departments have had fewer incidents than others, and think their training qualifies them to better handle distractions. The departments also believe the benefits of technology like onboard computers outweigh the risks. However, the National Safety Council maintains that people may think they are effectively multitasking, but their brains are actually toggling back and forth between tasks. This results in dangerous performance impairment. Distractions while driving often equate to attempting to drive while intoxicated, and the likelihood of an accident rises sharply.

Police officers and public servants owe a responsibility of care to all road users. Steps are being taken to provide officers with technology that lowers their risk of distractions. But many departments may struggle to find the support or funds to do so. But nonetheless, when any driver’s distraction results in an accident, they should be found negligent and responsible for any injuries that result.

Hupy and Abraham has worked hard to help spread awareness about distracted driving through awareness campaigns. Get your free "DNT TXT N DRV" bumper sticker from Hupy and Abraham HERE. If you have been injured by the distracted driving of a police officer, call Hupy and Abraham today at 800-800-5678 for a free, confidential, no-obligation consultation.
Jill Erin Wellskopf
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Director of Marketing, Hupy and Abraham