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Are reckless & inattentive driving the new drunk driving? Part II

Earlier this week, we began a discussion about reckless, careless and inattentive driving. All of these behaviors are dangerous and preventable, and each increases the likelihood a car accident.

Compared to drunk drivers, however, reckless/careless/inattentive drivers rarely face criminal charges for causing injurious or fatal crashes. Moreover, the American public seems to be much more accepting of these dangerous behaviors behind the wheel than they are of driving under the influence.

In a recent New York Times column, NYU professor and author Dr. Barron H. Lerner noted that reckless driving is treated with the same cultural indifference that used to be applied to drunk driving prior to the 1980s. In the aftermath of a fatal car accident, police may be quick to determine if the at-fault driver was impaired by alcohol or drugs. Once those intoxicants are ruled out, however, the investigation often stops right then and there.

Should we be so quick as to let reckless/careless/inattentive drivers off the hook? Lerner cites a report showing that over the past five years at least 21 NYC taxi drivers have been involved in injurious/fatal accidents with pedestrians and bicyclists. Of these, only one driver has faced criminal charges.

The statistics are likely just as harrowing here in Knoxville and throughout Tennessee’s other sizable cities. So what do we do about it?

Although pushing for legal changes is a slow and difficult process, it is certainly an effort worth taking. But even if reckless/careless/inattentive drivers do not face criminal charges, however, there are other ways to hold them accountable. Accident victims and their families can often pursue a personal injury or wrongful death lawsuit.

Source: New York Times, “Treat Reckless Driving Like Drunk Driving,” Barron H. Lerner, Jan. 24, 2014

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