A driver in North Dakota could have used some of that crash safety technology that Toyota Motor Corp (ADR) (NYSE:TM) (TYO:7203) announced yesterday. While driving 85 miles per hour, the driver, checking Facebook on her cell phone, rear-ended another vehicle, killing one passenger.
Distracted Driver checking Facebook crashes into a SUV
Abby Sletten, 20, could see five years in prison for negligent homicide, according to a report in the Huffington Post. As driver of the vehicle, Sletten is being held liable when she ran into a turning SUV in front of her, killing 89-year-old Phyllis Gordon who was in the passenger seat at the time of the accident.
Gordon was driving in the SUV with her granddaughter, Jennifer Myers, at the wheel and apparently making an illegal left turn, according to a report. Court documents say Sletten was looking at Facebook photos at the time of the crash, according to local news reports.
A criminal complaint points to no evidence that Sletten tried to brake. Ominously, this “suggested the possibility that Sletten may not have seen the vehicle in front of her or that she was possibly distorted while driving.”
According to one government study, five seconds is the average time a driver’s eyes are off the road while texting. When traveling at 55mph, that’s time enough to travel the length of a football field blindfolded.
Toyota planning on offering safety technology
As ValueWalk reported earlier today, Toyota is planning on offering safety technology that would monitor a driver’s eye movements to make sure the eyes were on the road. Further, crash safety warning devices would be available in both luxury and mainstream vehicles near “mid-decade,” a point in time that is rapidly approaching.
Unfortunately for Sletten, this could come too late.
A downtrodden, beaten look on her face, Sletten could face jail time for a majority of her early 20s for distracted driving, a growing national issue that is becoming increasingly a concern since the popularity of smart phones. In fact, it is this age group that is most impacted by distracted driving. According to the web site Distraction.Gov, operated by the U.S. Department of Transportation, those in their 20s are the most distracted of all drivers. Further, 10 percent of all younger drivers involved in fatal crashes were reported as distracted at the time of the crash.
The national numbers for distracted driving are alarming as well. In 2012, 3,328 people were killed due to distracted driving in 2012 and 421,000 were injured. The web site further notes that at any given moment during the day, nearly 660,000 drivers are using cell phones or manipulating their electronic devices.