Distracted driving crashes leave all drivers paying the price

Barely a day goes by that we don't see a serious crash somewhere on metro highways. On top of the devastating injuries and deaths that result, all of us are now paying the price.

Distracted driving is considered a leading cause in more crashes, and insurance companies are jacking up rates as a result.

In the past two years, the number of people dying behind the wheel has climbed nationwide. Missouri and Kansas are no exception, with a combined 1,302 deaths last year.

"I'd say more than 50 percent of the time, there was somebody that was distracted by the phone," said Scott Shachtman with the Schachtman Law Firm.

Gas prices are lower now, putting more cars on the road and leading to more crashes. But Shachtman says a lot of times, drivers think picking up a call or typing a text is so fast, it won't cause a crash.

"No one thinks it will happen to them. They think they can text better than everyone else and multi-function. But the truth is, distracted drivers are dangerous," said Shachtman.

Carolyn Wilson knows that first hand. Just shy of three years ago, she was out walking her dog in Overland Park. She punched the crosswalk button and got the light to go. As she crossed, a car started turning toward her.

"They're not slowing down...Oh, God!" Wilson said.

Thankfully, she ran backward fast and didn't get hit. But her head hit the pavement hard while she tried to get away. Her fox hound, Juno, was crushed by the car's tires.

"Oh I hear the sound of him getting hit. It's in my head all the time," said Wilson.

The driver told police she was distracted by the sun and got ticketed for failing to yield. Wilson believes the driver was also on the phone, but settled out of court before cell records were pulled to prove it. And she knows in a split second, things could've ended even worse.

"There'd be four kids without a mom. A husband without a wife. Brothers without a sister. It's scary," said Wilson.

More claims from crashes like hers are now pushing insurance companies all over to raise prices for the rest of us. Wilson says she still has memory loss and anxiety issues from what happened to her. She just hopes her story will make others wake up and put the phones down.

"You've got to remember you're driving a lethal weapon. People can't be replaced. It's that simple. Everything else can just wait," said Wilson.

The good news is there are a ton of apps that can force you to make it a habit. On the new iPhone operating system, there's even a "do not disturb while driving" setting which can block calls and texts while you drive.

Texting is only against the law in Missouri if you're under 21. It's banned entirely in Kansas. But in both states, the fine if you're caught is pretty low. It's just $20 in Missouri and $60 in Kansas for a first offense.

Legislators have tried several times in recent years to beef up the laws, but haven't been successful. Only 14 states right now ban all cell phone use in the car.