Distracted Driving – Car Accident Injury Attorneys
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Ever-evolving cell phone technology can offer some aspects of safety for drivers when used correctly and safely. But despite the ability to provide aid to stranded drivers or those experiencing car problems, cell phones and other mobile and electronic devices can also create an atmosphere of distraction.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), distracted driving claimed the lives 3,477 people in 2015 alone. As far as injuries go, 391,000 people sustained injuries caused by distracted driving in 2015.
During daylight hours, approximately 660,000 drivers are using cell phones while driving. That creates enormous potential for deaths and injuries on U.S. roads. Teens were the most significant age group reported as distracted at the time of fatal crashes.
The U.S. Department of Transportation describes distracted driving as, any activity that could divert a person’s attention away from the primary task of driving. All distractions endanger driver, passenger and bystander safety.
Busy lifestyles and excessive time spent in vehicles can push drivers to perform tasks that cannot always be safely completed while operating a vehicle. Although text messaging, status updates and mobile web interactions have recently taken heat for becoming a distraction to drivers, GPS systems, grooming and even adjusting radios and music can cause distractions while driving, even if only taking attention for a couple of seconds.
If you or someone you love was injured or killed in an accident caused by a distracted driver, you might be eligible for compensation for your injuries and losses. An experienced distracted driving attorney from The Carlson Law Firm can help you fight for your rights and the rights of those you love. Contact our firm today for a free consultation. We are available to you 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
What is Distracted Driving?
Distracted driving is described as operating a motor vehicle while engaging in any activity that takes one’s attention from driving. Any type of distraction can significantly impair a driver’s ability to safely operate a vehicle, with a considerably increased risk of causing or being involved in a collision. These distractions can fall into three primary categories:
- Visual attention refers to a driver’s eyes on the road. Turning to look at a passenger, reading a map or in-vehicle navigation system, looking down at a phone or looking in a mirror to apply makeup are all examples of distractions that would affect visual attention. A mere moment or matter of seconds is all it takes for a driver to miss an obstacle in the road, drift from a lane or fail to notice a change in traffic, causing a crash.
- Mental attention, or cognitive attention, refers to a driver’s mind being focused on driving. Many different activities may affect a driver’s mental attention, such as texting, talking to a passenger, driving with too little sleep or driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Judgment and reaction time will be affected if mental attention is decreased.
- Manual attention refers to a driver’s hands on the wheel. If a person takes one or both hands from the wheel while driving, he or she will be unable to respond quickly in the event of a road hazard or other emergency. A driver may lose control of the vehicle with insufficient time to react or may drift from the road or lane. Texting, using a hand-held cellphone, eating, lighting a cigarette and personal grooming are examples of distractions that affect manual attention.
Texting While Driving – A Serious Risk
The particular danger of texting while driving stems from the need for drivers to take their eyes off the road as well as their hands off the wheel, to read messages, and sometimes, in turn, reply to messages.
The risk of a car crash is 23 times greater when texting-while-driving than if driving without distraction, according to the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute (VTTI). This figure highlights the serious danger associated with taking one’s eyes off the road, even for mere seconds.
Texting while driving, updating a social media status or replying to an email may seem harmless at the time, but in reality, the impact can be life-altering. VTTI estimates that the average text distracts drivers by taking their eyes off the road for an average 4.6 seconds. Although a couple of seconds may seem harmless, it takes approximately the same time to travel the length of a football field at speeds of 55 mph.
Local and State Laws Against Texting While Driving
The debate over the safety of talking or texting while driving on the phone has spurred some countries, states, and even local municipalities to ban certain types of cell phone use while driving. Here’s the rundown of those laws.
- Statewide bans: A number of states have outlawed handheld cell phone use while driving or have banned cell phone use for certain types of drivers. Most make an exception for emergency calls to first responders.
- Handheld phones: Seven states have enacted laws banning the use of handheld cell phones while driving: California, Connecticut, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, and Washington (as well as Washington D.C. and the Virgin Islands).
- Novice or juvenile drivers: Twenty-nine states and the District of Columbia have enacted special cell phone driving laws for novice drivers (for example, those with a learner’s permit) or young drivers (such as those under the age of 18).
- School bus drivers: Eighteen states plus the District of Columbia have banned school bus drivers from using cell phones while passengers are present.
- Texting: Twenty-nine states, Washington D.C., and Guam have banned text messaging for all drivers.
- Distracted driving: Several additional states don’t specifically ban cell phone use, but instead lump it into a larger ban on distracted driving.
- Local bans: Some towns and cities have banned certain types of cell phone use while driving.
As of Friday, September 1st, 2017, texting while driving within the state of Texas will be punishable by a fine of $25-99 for first-time offenders, and $100-200 for repeat offenders (though no points will be assigned). The new law also states that if an accident caused by texting and driving results in the death or serious bodily injury of another person, they can be charged with a Class A misdemeanor. This charge is punishable by a fine not to exceed $4,000 and confinement in jail for a term not to exceed one year (in addition to any other charges/punishments).
It’s important to note that in Texas, this new law only addresses “reading, writing, or sending electronic messages” via a “wireless communication device.” It is still legal for motorists in most cities to use their phone for GPS navigation, music apps, dialing phone numbers, etc., but drivers may still get pulled over if an officer suspects them of texting.
Despite the progress accompanying bans and laws in places to safeguard against distracted driving accidents in Texas, there are still actions necessary to prevent accidents tied to distracted driving, texting and mobile device use that sparks countless accidents every year.
Distracted Driving Crashes: Evidence of Negligence or Recklessness
Beyond traffic tickets, distracted driving poses much more severe dangers — accidents and serious injuries. Those accidents and injuries may well lead to lawsuits. The fact that a driver was distracted dramatically increases the likelihood that a driver will be found responsible for damages caused.
When an injury accident occurs, law enforcement has the authority to procure cell phone records from the time of the crash. If it is determined that the at-fault driver was using a cell phone at the time of the accident, that information could be used to prove negligence in a subsequent lawsuit.
Get Involved: Help Stop Distracted Driving
Teens can be the best messengers with their peers and are encouraged to speak up when they see a friend driving while distracted. Teens should ask their friends sign a pledge never to drive distracted, to become involved in their local Students Against Destructive Decisions chapter, or to share messages on social media that remind their friends, family, and neighbors not to make the deadly choice to drive distracted.
Parents first have to lead by example—by never driving distracted—as well as talk with their young driver about distraction and all of the responsibilities that come with driving. Have everyone in the family sign the pledge to commit to distraction-free driving. Remind your teen driver that in States with graduated driver licensing (GDL), a violation of distracted-driving laws could mean a delayed or suspended license.
Educators and Employers –
Educators and employers can play a part, too. Spread the word at your school or workplace about the dangers of distracted driving. Ask your students to commit to distraction-free driving or set a company policy on distracted driving. Employers can put in place a company-wide policy that forbids texting while driving on the job.
Holding Distracted Drivers Accountable – How The Carlson Law Firm Can Help
If you, or someone you love, have been seriously injured or killed in an accident caused by distracted driving, including, texting while driving, call our auto accident attorneys as soon as possible. A consultation is always free at The Carlson Law Firm.
Our team of highly-skilled personal injury attorneys is available to discuss your potential claim 24 hours a day, seven days a week. We care, we can help.