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Are distracted pilots as dangerous as distracted drivers?

We recently published a post detailing the dangerous nature of distracted driving behaviors. When motorists take their hands off the wheel, their eyes off the road and/or their minds off the task of driving, catastrophe can result. Thankfully, most kinds of distracted driving behaviors are preventable. As long as drivers remain engaged and alert, they can prevent many different kinds of accident scenarios. However, drivers too often choose to engage in distracting behaviors despite the dangers they pose.

In a perhaps unsurprising twist on the issue of distracted driving, more travel-related operators are beginning to crash their air, water and land craft due to the same kinds of distracted behaviors that many motorists regularly engage in. For example, USA Today recently reported that federal investigators have determined that a small plane pilot crashed last year likely because he was taking selfies while flying.

It is therefore not only distracted motorist behaviors that currently threaten public safety, but also distracted pilot, conductor, captain and other operator behaviors. The fact that it may be possible to hold individuals accountable for harm caused by pilot negligence and other operator negligence related to distraction is likely of little comfort to the victims of this kind of behavior.

Are distracted pilots as dangerous as distracted drivers? There may be fewer distracted pilots navigating the skies than there are distracted drivers on the nation’s roads. Nevertheless, they pose a public safety risk that should be addressed with urgency by federal regulators, industry professionals and fellow safety-minded pilots.

Source: USA Today, "NTSB: Selfies caused fatal Colo. plane crash," Trevor Hughes, Feb. 3, 2015

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