OKLAHOMA CITY — We all know distracted driving is dangerous, but did you know it’s also costly. Texting, talking, even eating or talking to others in the car all take your focus off of the road putting you at risk for an accident that could send you into a financial tailspin.
Brandi Gibson’s daughter died following a car wreck.
Gibson said, “She was by herself. She was on the phone with someone and missed a curve on the road and hit a concrete barrier.”
Twenty-year-old Emily Gibson’s life ended along I-235 just south of NW 50th street. It happened May 24th, 2009. Her family says the accident was caused by cell phone distraction.
Gibson said, “We were looking at college costs. We were not looking at the cost of burying a child and insurance policies and paying off student loans. That was not in the plan.”
But plans changed and her family was suddenly faced with the cost of a funeral, a headstone, burial plots, insurance and paying off their daughter’s student loans. It was a process that dragged on and on.
Though thankfully there were no other cars involved, saving them the added expense and heartache.
Mike Phillips, an attorney with Ryan, Bisher, Ryan, Phillips and Simons, said, “The costs are quite high for the person that caused the wreck.”
Phillips says the number of distracted driving cases is on the rise. He says attorney fees, court costs and medical bills pile up fast and can quickly send a distracted driver into financial ruin.
Phillips said, “That wreck starts a chain of events. It’s the first domino that falls in a sequence of events that are very costly.”
Experts say one text message, sending or receiving, is the same as closing your eyes for 4.6 seconds. At 55 miles an hour, it’s enough time to travel the length of a football field completely unaware of everything around you.
Dave Koeneke, with the Oklahoma Safety Council, said, “Just go out on the highway and look at yourself and think can I close my eyes for five seconds? I can’t do it. I’m scared to death.”
Phillips says even hands free devices aren’t protection.
Phillips said, “It is the actual conversation itself that causes the distracted driving.”
“We just lose ourselves and don’t realize what’s going on,” Koeneke said. “Studies have shown it’s as bad as driving under the influence if not worse.”
A momentary decision that can cost you thousands. But you can save that money and potentially lives by simply turning off your phone and tuning in to the road.
Gibson said, “When I get in my car I put my phone in my purse, in my backseat and it’s not on so I don’t see it.”
Right now, companies face the biggest liability. There have numerous cases of distracted driving accidents involving workers on their phones in company vehicles or on a company related trip. Some of those cases have ended with settlements of up to $24 million all because someone was using their phone.