Distracted driving is a serious threat to the safety of all road users, including drivers and passengers in other motor vehicles, as well as pedestrians and cyclists who share the road. It has been a problem as long as cars have been around, but it has risen to a new dangerous level since mobile phones have become so prevalent. Distracted driving results in about nine traffic fatalities every day in the U.S., and causes more than 1,000 injuries, according to the National Center for Statistics and Analysis.
What Constitutes Distracted Driving?
Distracted driving is the act of operating a motor vehicle without maintaining appropriate focus on the task at hand. The problem stems from all activities that take the driver’s primary focus away from driving safely. These pursuits include those that cause drivers to take their eyes off the road or their hands off the wheel. Common driving distractions include:
- Eating or drinking
- Adjusting the radio or GPS system
- Grooming, such as shaving or applying make-up
- Having a heated or stressful conversation with a passenger
- Using a cell phone or other electronic device
What Types of Activities Lead to Distracted Driving Accidents?
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration classifies distracted driving into three categories: visual, manual, and cognitive. Visual distractions, such as reading a text or fiddling with radio dials, cause the driver to take their eyes off the road ahead. Manual distractions cause the driver to take their hands off the steering wheel; these include holding a cell phone, eating a sandwich, or typing an address into a mapping device to request driving directions. Cognitive distractions take away the driver’s attention, even if their eyes and hands remain in place. An emotional conversation or distressed mental state can be enough to negatively affect a driver’s ability to operate a vehicle safely.
What Types of Distractions are Caused by Mobile Phones?
People are always multitasking. Many drivers make use of their drive time by using it to fit in some pressing business, such as making a phone call or replying to a text. Sometimes drivers simply seek to entertain themselves on the drive and attempt to queue some traveling music or a news podcast to pass the time. However, in shifting their attention from the task of driving, they are increasing their chances of causing an accident. The act of using a cell phone involves several layers of distraction.
When a driver transfers their concentration from the duty to drive attentively and gives in to their mobile device, a chain reaction starts. The subject of the intended conversation or electronically summoned content takes over a fair measure of the driver’s attention, becoming a cognitive distraction. Another layer of distraction involves the motion of reaching for a ringing cell phone or attempting to locate the device at the bottom of a purse. Once the device is in hand, dialing or typing are manual distractions, as these actions all require the driver to remove one hand from the steering wheel.
At the same time, the act of typing or opening an app requires the driver to look away from the road, despite the absolute necessity of maintaining visual contact with the road ahead. Even a quick glance away can be deadly. An example of mobile phone-related distracted driving that may not be as obvious is the interference caused by hands-free calls. However, Bluetooth-enabled calls still require some degree of driver attention. Whether it is to dial a phone number, answer an incoming call, or engage in a conversation, even hands-free calls involve driver distractions.
What Solutions are Used for Distracted Driving?
Some traffic safety advocates are calling for technology to disable cell phone use while driving. Either as a mechanism in the car or as part of the mobile device, such technology would ensure that many functions remain inoperable while the car is in motion. This solution would impact passengers as well as drivers, but some say the inconvenience is worth it to save lives. A less invasive approach to the issue is to ban automobile manufacturers from making it appear safe to engage in cell phone use while driving. Integrated Bluetooth systems that seamlessly connect a driver’s mobile device imply that cell phone use while driving is a condoned highway activity. Systems that include a touch screen control center are also problematic when it comes to discouraging drivers from letting their eyes wander from the road.
Other advocates of measures to curb distracted driving point to the laws in many European countries that have banned all cell phone use by drivers. They also encourage the increase of fines and penalties for violations of existing distracted driving laws. Some creativity about the application of liability laws has brought up important points about who can be held liable for a distracted driving accident. For example, possibly holding parents responsible for their child’s irresponsible driving behavior has been suggested. Interestingly, the concept of holding an employer legally responsible for their employee’s on-the-clock cell phone use behind the wheel has caused many employers to explicitly prohibit their employees from using these devices on the road.
How can I Prove Distracted Driving?
The best way to prove a distracted driving case is to begin collecting evidence as soon as possible. In many cases, that starts at the scene of the accident. If the other driver admits to having been distracted by a cell phone or some sidetracking activity, it should be noted and brought to the attention of the officer who is called to the scene. This detail should be recorded in the officer’s accident report. Witnesses may also be on hand to verify the admission. With this evidence, a car accident lawyer can request additional supporting information, such as the other driver’s cell phone records, which may include call logs, text messages, and time-stamped data.
Virginia Beach Car Accident Lawyers at Anchor Legal Group, PLLC Help Injured Victims of Distracted Driving Accidents
If you were hurt in an accident caused by a distracted driver, contact the Virginia Beach car accident lawyers at Anchor Legal Group, PLLC. We have the skills and experience to seek out all relevant evidence to support your claim. Contact us online or call 757-LAW-0000 to set up a free consultation. Located in Virginia Beach, we represent clients throughout Virginia Beach, Chesapeake, Norfolk, Suffolk, Portsmouth, Newport News, Hampton, and Eastern Shore. We also serve our clients throughout the United States through our network of associated attorneys.