What is distracted driving?
Distracted driving is any activity that diverts attention away from driving. It includes eating and drinking, fiddling with your radio, scolding your children, and talking and texting on your cell phone. It also includes driving while drowsy or removing your eyes from looking forward on the roadway.
Distracted Driving Statistics
Distracted driving is the number one contributing factor to vehicle crashes in New York State, according to the Governor’s Traffic Safety Commission. In Texas, distracted driving caused one out of every five accidents in 2021 and was responsible for 431 deaths and 2,934 serious injuries according to the Texas Department of Transportation. The California Office of Traffic Survey found that 74 percent of Californians believe distracted driving is the most significant traffic safety concern. In 2009, more than 70 percent of large-truck crashes occurred when the driver was distracted, according to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.
New York became the first state to ban handheld cell phone use while driving in 2001. However, a new study quoted in the New York Post found that 90 percent of drivers use their cell phones while on the road. Texting is hazardous because it typically takes the driver’s eyes off the road for five seconds. If the car is traveling at 55 mph, five seconds is long enough to cover the distance of a football field, according to the NHTSA.
Driving while drowsy increases the risk of an accident by four times, according to the Governor’s Commission. Even looking away from the road for two seconds doubles the risk of an accident.
Help for Victims of Distracted Drivers
If you or a loved one has been injured by a distracted driver, our team at the Lanier Law Firm can help. Founded in 1990 by attorney Mark Lanier, the firm is dedicated to addressing client concerns effectively. We have more than 50 attorneys who provide individual attention to clients with serious injuries or who have lost a loved one. Our personal injury attorneys have decades of experience in advocating for justice. Our offices are in Houston, New York City, and Los Angeles. Contact us for a free case evaluation.
The Effects of Distracted Driving
Distracted driving is an American epidemic, according to a presentation given by John Lloyd at a 2021 Traffic Safety Symposium. Driving distracted can cause deaths and injuries. It also has financial ramifications because drivers have a duty of care, which means they must adhere to a standard of reasonable care while driving. Driving while distracted is negligent and puts your assets at risk. Distracted drivers who cause crashes may be liable for damages such as:
- Medical bills
- Pain and suffering
- Car repairs
- Lost wages
- Punitive damages
If you are using a handheld cell phone, you’ll also receive fines and points on your license in most states, including New York and California. Points can cause insurance rates to increase. If you accumulate too many points, the state will suspend your driving privileges. Young drivers will face license suspension on the first offense of using a cell phone while driving. Texting while driving is also illegal statewide in Texas, and some Texas cities ban cell phone use altogether.
How to Prevent Distracted Driving
Most distractions are avoidable, and those you can’t avoid can be managed, according to AAA.
Limit Inside-the-Vehicle Distractions
One way to prevent distracted driving is to limit distractions inside your vehicle.
The primary distraction is your cell phone. Holding a cell phone while driving is illegal in 24 states, according to the National Council of State Legislatures. While using a hands-free device is legal in most states, the device is still distracting if it requires that you divert your attention away from looking at the road. If you must make a call or send a text, find a place to pull over.
Also, avoid fiddling with the GPS, climate control system, or radio while driving. Long-distance truckers should avoid using a dispatching device while driving. Anything that takes your eyes off the road or a hand off the steering wheel is a distraction. Set your GPS and temperature control and use your dispatching device before driving.
Be especially careful to avoid distractions when driving with your children. Children model the behaviors they see their parents using. According to a New York State PSA, if you are texting and driving, chances are your teen will do that too.
Avoid eating, drinking, and grooming while driving. These tasks take your eyes off the road and at least one of your hands off the wheel. If you are hungry or thirsty, take a break from driving to eat.
Limit the number of passengers in your car. Many states have laws that limit the number of passengers for new drivers. However, experienced drivers can become distracted by conversations, especially if many passengers are in the car. If your children are fighting in the back seat, pull over to tend to them.
Keep pets contained. Putting pets in a crate, mobile pet bed, or other restraint system is safer for them and also helps prevent them from becoming a distraction, according to Be Chewy.
Store loose gear and other items inside the car so they don’t roll around and tempt you to reach for them.
Drive Only When You Are Alert
Take frequent breaks and limit the total driving you do in one day to stay alert. The FMCSA restricts the maximum number of hours passenger-carrying commercial drivers can drive to 10 hours after a break of eight consecutive hours. Property-carrying drivers can drive up to 11 hours after a break of ten consecutive hours.
If you are sleepy, pull off the road and rest. Paying for a motel room is far cheaper than an automobile accident.
Avoid External Distractions
Avoid letting events or objects outside your vehicle distract you, especially in wet or slippery driving conditions. For example, avoid turning around to look at an accident behind you or to watch a jogger. Removing your eyes from the road for even two seconds may cause you to miss someone slowing down in front of you.