Distracted driving is a serious issue that troubles Americans in all 50 states. Lately, it seems that you will see a distracted driver at least once whenever you drive across town. How many times have you been stopped at a red light and noticed that most drivers in adjacent lanes are looking at their phones? The answer is probably “much more often than you’d like.”
Of course, distracted driving is not just an annoyance, it is a safety hazard. Based on National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) data from 2018, distracted drivers caused 2,841 traffic fatalities and roughly 400,000 serious traffic injuries. If we as a nation want to start bringing that number down to zero, then we all need to know more about distracted driving, its causes, and how to prevent it.
What are the Three Types of Distractions While Driving?
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that more than 3,200 people in the United States will die each year due to a distracted driver’s mistakes. The amount is equivalent to about 9 people each day dying in a distracted driving accident, which does not even factor in the other 1,000+ injuries caused a day. With everything considered, at least 9% of all fatal car accidents involve a distracted driver.
What is causing all of these distracted driving accidents, though? The CDC has categorized the most common forms of driver distractions into three types:
- Visual distractions that take your eyes off the road.
- Manual distractions that take your hands off the steering wheel.
- Cognitive distractions that take your mind off the task of driving safely.
What is the Most Dangerous Kind of Distracted Driving?
While there are many forms of distracted driving – eating, applying makeup, talking to passengers, adjusting the GPS, reading billboards, etc. – there is one form that seems to easily be the worst: texting-and-driving. A study from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety in 2014 showed that nearly 85% of drivers said that texting behind the wheel was “completely unacceptable yet more than 36% admitted to the habit. The actual percentage of texting drivers could also be much higher if it is assumed that peoples’ subconscious intent to protect themselves from liability and judgment would cause some survey participants to lie and say they do not text-and-drive when they know they do.
Texting-and-driving is especially dangerous because it engages all three forms of driver distraction:
- Looking at a text message causes a visual distraction.
- Picking up the phone to read or type a message causes a manual distraction.
- Thinking about what a message said and what to say back to it causes a cognitive distraction.
Texting-and-driving is the worst driver distraction in that it is common and extremely dangerous. To make matters even more concerning, younger age groups with less driving experience appear to be more prone to the bad habit.
Who is Most Affected by Texting and Driving?
Another study by the CDC concluded that teenage drivers were more likely to text-and-drive on average than older age groups. Furthermore, texting-and-driving behaviors among teens seemed to distract them worse than older, more experienced drivers since teenagers were reported as being approximately 400% more likely to cause or almost cause a distracted car accident than older counterparts. Talking to passengers to the point of distraction was also noted more frequently among teens.
How Do You Stop Being Distracted While Driving?
The dangers caused by distracted driving are clear. Yet how to stop distracted driving accidents might not be. The truth is that it is a group effort that requires every driver to decide to eliminate their own distractions when driving.
Five things you can do today to stop driving while distracted are:
- Put away your smartphone while driving and only use it for emergencies. Secure it in the glove compartment where you will not be tempted to look at the screen or listen for message notifications.
- Limiting the number of passengers that you allow at once in your car is a good way to stop distractions related to chatter. This hint is especially beneficial for new and young drivers who are more prone to auditory distractions.
- Food and drinks in your car should be reserved for passengers only. When taking fast food home, keep the bag rolled up tightly or out of your reach. Don’t put a straw in your cup, either, as this will tempt you to drink from it.
- Any form of multitasking is inappropriate when you are driving your car. Your focus should be on driving safely, which means use defensive maneuvers, checking your mirrors often, yielding the right-of-way as instructed, and so on.
- When driving to parts unknown, set your GPS before you begin driving. The front seat passenger should be tasked with reading and adjusting the GPS if changes need to be made while you are in motion.
Who Can Help After a Distracted Driving Accident?
We have established that distracted driving accidents can and do happen, often without much warning. Who can you turn to for help if you ever get into a distracted driving accident? A local car accident law firm can guide you through all legal processes of filing a claim against the driver who hit you. An experienced personal injury attorney can also help with evidence preservation, gathering, and use to bolster your claim.
The Law Offices of Harold D. Carr, P.S. offers distracted driving claim assistance to people in Tacoma, Olympia, Federal Way, Puyallup, and other areas of Washington. Call (800) 520-6617 today if you need our firm’s help with starting and progressing your claim in pursuit of full and maximized compensation after a distracted or texting driver crashed into you.