Distracted Driving Attorney
Often, we assume that an at-fault driver is intending to drive recklessly when an accident occurs on the highway. In reality, the greatest cause of car crashes is simply driver inattention. What is driver inattention? It is when the driver’s attention is taken away from the road or the tasks and responsibilities of driving. The attention could be taken away by any number of things. In our modern day, we have more and more devices and ways to distract ourselves while driving and correspondingly, the numbers of car crashes has risen. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) found an 8.8% increase in fatalities from 2014 to 2015 in accidents involving distraction. Out of all car crash deaths in that year, that is approximately 10% of the whole related to distracted driving.
There is always an inherent risk in becoming distracted while driving your vehicle. The reason for this is twofold. If you are a passenger in a car with a distracted driver or in the other car and are the victim of an accident caused by a distracted driver, you can file an action against the distracted driver.
What Is Distracted Driving Anyway?
Different Modes of Distraction
When thinking about distracted driving, the lawyers at Garrett, Walker, Aycoth, & Olson like to divide the different types into three categories:
- Visual Distraction
Visual distraction occurs when someone takes their eyes (and perhaps their hands at the same time) off the wheel. Types of visual distractions include:
- Reading maps
- Checking the mirror to look at one’s personal appearance
- Looking at apps on their phone
- Reading on their phone
- Watching video or other entertainment apps or systems
- Allowing passengers to distract or interfere with driving
- Mental Distractions
Mental distractions take the mind of the driver off the road for some measure of time. They have the ability to distract both visually and physically as well as mentally, so they are perhaps the most dangerous of all distractions.
A few mental distractions are:
- Paying too much attention to a phone call or a companion in the car
- Thinking about stressful things in your life and “zoning out”
- Yelling at children or dealing with needs of children
- Physical Distractions
Physical distractions are distractions that take place when the driver is using their hands to do something besides driving. These distractions are the ones you typically think of with distracted driving and the things that we see people do in cars that make you want to shake your head:
- Talking on the phone
- Eating food and drinking beverages
- Playing with the car stereo
- Text messaging
- Putting on makeup, shaving, adjusting clothes
What are the Laws Surrounding Distracted Driving?
The vast majority of American states have passed laws making distracted driving illegal. But what is “distracted driving”? It usually an activity performed by a driver which is not necessary for the vehicle’s operation, but the distracted driver nevertheless chooses to engage in.
Different states handle the details differently. Some states deem particular activities “distracted driving”, such as writing, putting on makeup, reading, etc. Other states have prohibited any use of a cellular phone while driving, (even with hands-free devices), while some only make hand-held phone use illegal. Check your state’s laws before you drive.
How Can I Avoid Accidents Related to Distracted Driving?
The saddening and frustrating thing about distracted accidents from an attorney’s perspective is that they are all so avoidable. Think about simple ways one can avoid distraction, such as:
- To avoid being distracted by eating, simply make sure you’ve eaten before getting in your vehicle. If you must eat (like on a road trip), simply pull over to do so.
- If you have passengers in your car, let them deal with some of these distractions. They can be the DJ or even take phone calls for you!
- As for mobile phones, the best thing to do is turn them off for all purposes. Even if you can utilize Bluetooth devices that don’t require your hands, the activities related to the phone will distract you visually and mentally. Park the car to make a call in an emergency. Many cell phones now have settings that will automatically respond to calls and texts by telling the caller or texter that you are driving and will not be available for a while.
- Before getting in your vehicle, set up your car and cell phone. You can set the temperature, audio settings, mirrors, child car seats, and chair positioning before you pull out of park.
- One great rule is that if something happens that requires your attention while driving, simply pull over in a safe location. This rule is true for cell phones or even dealing with passengers, small children or even dogs. Anything you can do in a vehicle would be safer if you do it while stopped safely.