DISTRACTED DRIVING - AN ANNOYANCE AND A CAR ACCIDENT WAITING TO HAPPEN
May 11, 2019
There are approximately 5.5 million car accidents in the United States every year. These accidents result in about 3 million injuries and about 40,000 deaths. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, distracted driving accounted for between 16-19% of all car accident injuries between 2010 and 2015. Here are five facts about distracted driving and car accidents:
DISTRACTED DRIVING IS MORE THAN TEXTING
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration classifies distracted driving according to the type of distraction: visual, cognitive, and manual. A visual distraction is one that causes the driver to take his or her eyes off the road. A cognitive distraction is one that causes the driver to take his or her mind off driving. A manual distraction is one that causes the driver to take his or her hands off the wheel. Because of these broad categories, the CDC's distracted driving statistics include any form of distraction including eating and drinking, operating the radio or navigation system, and texting or talking on a cell phone.
EVEN SMALL DISTRACTIONS CAN CAUSE A CAR ACCIDENT
A minor distraction, such as a five second glance at a text message, can have major consequences. When traveling at 55 miles per hour, a car covers about one hundred yards in five seconds. Texting while driving is particularly dangerous because it involves all three forms of distraction. Holding a cell phone, reading the text message, and thinking about the message and the response is essentially equivalent to letting the car drive itself.
YOUNG DRIVERS ARE MORE LIKELY TO BE INVOLVED IN A DISTRACTED DRIVING CAR ACCIDENT
The highest proportion of fatal crashes involving distracted driving occur with drivers under the age of 20. Nearly 45% of high school drivers report sending a text or email while driving at least once during the preceding month. And drivers under the age of 25 are two to three times more likely to text while driving than drivers over the age of 25.
STATES ARE PASSING LAWS TO PUNISH DISTRACTED DRIVING
Sixteen states plus the District of Columbia have passed laws that require the use of hands-free cell accessories and features while driving and 47 states plus the District of Columbia have passed laws that ban textingwhile driving. Nevada, for example, has both a hands-free cell use law and a texting ban. Nevada's law establishes a schedule of fines for hand-held cell use and texting while driving.
DISTRACTED DRIVING MAY DETERMINE WHO IS AT FAULT IN A CAR ACCIDENT
Under many circumstances, a driver who violates a motor vehicle statute may be deemed at fault for a car crash arising from that violation, unless that driver can prove that the violation was not the proximate cause of the accident. This means that a driver who texts or calls using a hand-held cell phone while driving in Nevada is presumed to be negligent. Since negligence determines fault in car accidents, distracted drivers run a high risk of being deemed at fault for any car accident they cause.
THE OTHER DRIVER MIGHT NOT BE AS CAREFUL
Unfortunately, responsible drivers who minimize inattention are not completely safe. Surveys suggest that 49% of all drivers report talking on the cell phone while driving and 35% of all drivers report sending a text message or email while driving. This means that almost every driver will regularly encounter a distracted driver who is either talking or texting while driving.
Distracted driving must be considered as a possible cause in nearly every car accident. With such high numbers of cell phone users texting or talking while driving, drivers should always report the accident so that police and insurance companies can document the circumstances of the accident. Drivers injured in a car accident caused by a distracted driver may wish to speak to a lawyer so that fault is properly assigned to the distracted driver.