Distracted Driving: It Only Takes A Second For Tragedy To Strike

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (localmemphis.com) - The next time you are on the road, watch out! Drivers are slamming into cars without hitting the breaks.

In Shelby County, crashes involving distracted drivers are up 338% over the past decade.

There's one major reason for the big increase.

How often do you see people texting while driving?  Putting on makeup while stopped in traffic? Eating? All those distractions have changed rear-end crashes.

"It just sort of jarred me for a minute, where you don't realize what's going on, and what was that, and what just happened to you," said Delynn Johnson. A distracted driver going 45 miles-per-hour rear-ended her car. Johnson was sitting at a stop light at the corner of White Station and Summer.

"He said he didn't even see me," said Johnson.

The damage to her car may not look so bad, the damage to her body will last a lifetime; severe and constant back and neck pain. For a long time, she couldn't do simple things.

"I couldn't hold a pencil," said Johnson. 

"You are more or less sitting in a rocket that launches," said attorney David Peel.

Peel is a personal injury attorney in Shelby County. Peel says rear-end crashes are more severe than ever. The velocity of your body being thrust forward, now almost double what it used to be.

The fender benders of years past, with skid marks showing drivers hit the breaks to slow down, replaced by drivers who often never see the car they plow into.

"Many times now, the car that is hit at such a high speed it goes on into another car or two, " said Peel.

Distracted driving statistics in Shelby County are skyrocketing, accounting for 1600 crashes in 2007. They are now blamed for more than 7000 crashes last year.

"You're going to lose that 2 or 3 seconds of response time that you need in order to prevent an accident. The impact has changed,” said Memphis Police Col. Samuel Hines.

"If you do not see it, it's not there, and many of the folks will tell you ‘I never knew you were there’," said Peel.

Across the state of Tennessee this year, there have been more than 22,0000 accidents where distracted driving was a contributing factor. Last month, the Tennessee Highway Patrol conducted a week-long crackdown with local law enforcement. More than 900 people were ticketed texting, tweeting, or even snapchatting, instead of keeping their eyes on the road.


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