Distracted driving is a leading cause of death in America. According to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration, 3,450 people died in 2016 due to driver distraction. In 2015, there were close to 400,000 car and motor vehicle accidents due to distracted drivers.
Why driver distraction is dangerous
There are three main reasons why driver distraction is dangerous to drivers, passengers, pedestrians, and bicycle riders.
- Visual distraction. Driver distraction means a driver is not focusing on the road and traffic conditions in front of him/her. This can easily cause an accident.
- Cognitive distraction. Drivers who are focusing on other people or objects are not thinking about how to respond to traffic conditions and traffic emergencies. Drivers who travel 60 miles per hour are going 88 feet per second. In just that one second, a car accident can easily occur.
- Manual distraction. Drivers who are using a cell phone or eating a hamburger do not have their hands on the steering wheel. In the time it takes to move your hands from the phone, food, another object, or a person – a crash can cause a fatal accident or serious injury. Slamming on the brakes is often a sign that a driver took too long to respond.
Kinds of driver distraction
There are many different ways drivers lose focus on the roadway in front of them. Some common types of driver distraction include:
Texting while driving
This is perhaps the most dangerous type of driver distraction. It means that both your hands and eyes on the smartphone or mobile device. In Florida, it is illegal to text while driving. Teenagers are especially likely to text while driving. Whatever the reason, texting can wait. There is no greater emergency than not having a car under control. Drivers who text while drive and then cause an accident should be held accountable for any wrongful deaths or injuries they cause. They may even be subject to a punitive damage claim because their action is reckless.
Using electronic devices
Talking a cell phone is also distracting. Playing with the radio or looking at a GPS instead of listening to it are dangerous activities. Many accidents happen because drivers talked on their smartphones instead of pulling off to the side of the road or postponing the talk until the end of the trip.
Drinking and eating
Almost everyone does it. You did not have breakfast so you grab some coffee and a doughnut. You drive with one hand while slurping the coffee and biting into the doughnut. Eating and drinking affect your visual ability and manual ability. If you’re tired and you need the coffee to stay awake, the drink can also affect your cognitive ability.
Some workers put makeup on while they are driving or brush their hair. They may fix their tie or just gaze in the mirror to see how they look. These acts of driver distraction can be fatal and cause catastrophic and serious injuries.
Speaking with passengers
Many people who talk while driving turn to look at the person that is speaking. The turning can cause the driver to take his/her eyes off the road. Parents with young children may even be likely to try to hold or discipline a child while talking. Teens who get excited may get caught up in the conversation and fail to concentrate on the road.
Tiredness can cause drivers to lose concentration. Tired drivers should pull over and rest or go home where they can sleep. Drivers should get a proper night’s rest before driving especially if they are taking a long trip
Drunk drivers lose the ability to react quickly and to think about how they will respond to emergencies. Intoxicated drivers often speed and swerve. It is the alcohol that distracts them from driving and responding in a normal fashion. Drunk drivers should be held accountable for any deaths they cause and any harm that results.
Proof of driver distraction
Many irresponsible drivers will say they were driving just fine – that there was no driver distraction. They’ll say it’s the injured person’s duty to prove driver distraction.
Some of the ways a skilled Florida personal injury lawyer will work to prove driver distraction include:
Reviewing the accident with the police
The police should prepare a report that indicates how they believe the accident happened. The report should include evidence that there was a smartphone or food in the car. They’ll examine if the driver was tired or possibly under the influence of drugs or alcohol. The police should speak to everyone in all cars and any witnesses.
Mobile phones should be examined to determine when calls were made. Often, it can be shown that the timing of the accident matched a call that came in or that was going out. Attorneys need to move quickly to examine the phone records before any data is damaged or destroyed.
Many times, passengers in the car can testify that the driver was speaking on the phone. The person on the other end of the phone conversation can be called as a witness. The injured person may have seen that the driver had a mobile device to his/her ear. A pedestrian may have witnessed cell phone usage.
Sometimes, another person in the car may have a video of the person driving. Surveillance cameras may be able to shed some clues.
Reconstruction of the accident
Professional engineers and computer graphics professionals may be able to reconstruct the accident. Sometimes they can directly show the type of distraction that occurred. Other times, they can show that there’s no logical reason for the accident other than driver distraction.