Most people know that driving while distracted can prove catastrophic. After all, taking hands, eyes, or attention away from driving can all have devastating consequences, especially if another driver does not behave as anticipated for any reason.
nfortunately, despite their knowledge of the dangers of distracted driving, some drivers may choose to ignore those dangers and try to engage in multiple tasks behind the wheel anyway, leading to car accidents. Those decisions can have far-reaching consequences and may create immense danger, which is why it’s important to seek the help of a car accident lawyer if you’ve been involved in a crash caused by someone else’s distracted driving.
Distracted Driving: The Statistics
Distracted driving makes up around 8 percent of fatal crashes across the United States, and around 12 percent of those fatal distracted driving accidents occur because of cell phone use. According to the CDC, around one in five people who died in distracted driving accidents died outside a vehicle: as a pedestrian or bike rider, for example.
Most states now have text message bans for all drivers, and Missouri remains one of the last holdouts regarding restricting texting and driving. Many states also have specific laws that ban any handheld device use in the vehicle: some ban it for novice drivers or those under eighteen, while others focus on banning distracted driving in school zones.
Most adults know the dangers of distracted driving. However, many drivers do not think about the distraction that may have nothing to do with using a cellular device behind the wheel.
Types of Distraction Behind the Wheel
Distraction behind the wheel generally falls into three key categories.
A manual distraction occurs when a driver takes his hands away from the wheel while driving. Manual distraction may include various activities: trying to put on makeup in the car, reaching for an item dropped by a child or passenger in the back seat, or dealing with a pet, for example.
Manual distractions may also include more simple distractions, like reaching over to change music settings or adjust the climate controls in the vehicle. Many drivers do not think twice about those common manual distractions, especially when they take up a brief time.
Visual distractions occur when a driver takes their eyes off the road. Looking at anything in the vehicle can quickly pose a visual distraction. For example, looking over at a passenger could create a potent visual distraction.
Visual distractions may also occur when the driver looks over to change the music on the car radio, including flipping through songs while looking at a visual display. Even using a GPS device in the vehicle can pose a more potent visual distraction than many realize.
While visual and manual distractions may involve actively taking hands or eyes off the road, cognitive distractions may occur more simply. A cognitive distraction may occur because the driver stops paying attention to the road. A conversation in the vehicle or on a cell phone, dealing with a child’s pleas, or even simply thinking very hard about something else can all represent serious cognitive distractions that may have more serious consequences than the driver imagines.
The Danger of Distraction on the Road
Dealing with distractions out on the road can cause several potential problems.
Distracted Drivers May Lose Track of the Road
Often, distracted drivers will lose track of how the road turns, and they may fail to pay attention to its twists and turns, which may cause them to miss one of those turns.
Drivers who lose track of the road due to distraction may also fail to note traffic signs and signals, including changing stoplights, which may increase the odds of a devastating collision as the driver attempts to move through an intersection without right of way.
Distracted Drivers May Miss the Presence of Others Around Them
Distracted drivers may have a very hard time tracking the movement of other vehicles around them. They may have difficulty keeping up with a car or motorcycle that fits perfectly into their blind spots, or they may lose track of the movement of other vehicles, making it difficult for them to change lanes or complete a turn safely. Furthermore, distracted drivers may have difficulty keeping up with the movement of non-vehicles out on the road.
Pedestrians and cyclists may fit a very different visual profile than drivers usually look for when checking for traffic around them: that of a passenger vehicle. As a result, distracted drivers may completely miss the presence of pedestrians or cyclists, increasing the risk of a devastating accident.
Distracted Drivers May Fail to Control Their Vehicles
Often, distracted drivers fail to control their vehicles safely as they move over the road. For example, distracted drivers often find it difficult to keep up with twisting or turning roads. They may also fail to properly control their vehicles, increasing the odds that a distracted driver will slip out of his assigned lane and cause a sideswipe collision.
Distracted Drivers May Not React to Road Hazards
A variety of hazards can crop up on the road at any minute. Often, distracted drivers will have a very hard time responding to and dealing with those hazards. For example, suppose a child runs out into the road after a ball or another vehicle pulls out unexpectedly.
A distracted driver may not note the presence of those hazards and may have a harder time reacting to them. Furthermore, a distracted driver may need to get his hands back on the wheel before he can respond to the risk of a collision, which may increase the odds that he will end up in a collision.
Distracted Drivers May Lose Track of Their Routes
Often, distracted drivers fail to notice an upcoming turn or need to change lanes. As a result, they may end up having to complete that maneuver at the last second. Unfortunately, that may mean that drivers try to compensate for those challenges too late. Unfortunately, that may mean they cannot safely complete that maneuver and put themselves and others who share the road with them in danger in the process.
Distracted drivers may not only have a greater overall risk of causing an accident, but they may also have a greater risk of causing severe injury in an accident because they cannot react in time to avoid the potential consequences.
Common Distractions While Driving
When they think of distraction behind the wheel, most drivers think of texting and driving, partly due to the considerable campaigns launched by many states in recent years to help combat that dangerous action.
Unfortunately, texting and driving accidents make up a relatively small percentage of the overall distracted driving car accidents across the country annually. Distractions may include a variety of behaviors that people do not think twice about before performing those actions behind the wheel.
Eating and Drinking
Eating and drinking frequently happen behind the wheel. Some people may hit the road in the morning without time for breakfast, especially if time gets tight. Others may eat and drink in the car on road trips rather than stop to eat along the way. Unfortunately, both of those habits may cause catastrophic accidents and injury. Eating or drinking something messy, which could create unexpected hazards, may pose more risk than eating something small that will not likely create a mess.
Using a GPS
Many people assume that using a GPS offers a safe way to get around in traffic. Not only does it provide directions to unfamiliar places, but it can also help avoid dangerous traffic snarls and accidents.
Some GPS programs may even provide notifications about things like debris in the road and officers ahead. However, paying too much attention to that GPS device may take a driver’s attention away from the road, making it more difficult for the driver to navigate safely and increasing the risk of a collision. Using a GPS without paying attention to the road can also cause drivers to take unsafe turns or enter potentially unsafe areas.
Dealing with Children or Pets
Transporting children and pets can prove more hazardous than many people think. Often, children and pets, who do not understand the dangers associated with misbehavior in a vehicle, can pose a potent distraction.
Pets left unrestrained can wander all over the vehicle, which may make a driver’s attention jerk to them instead of to the road. Children may bicker, fuss, or make demands of parents. Adults may take one hand off the wheel to retrieve an item for a child or even turn around to look at a child that they cannot quite hear. However, all those behaviors can pose substantial dangers and raise the risk of an accident.
The things going on outside a vehicle can also pose considerable danger. Often, drivers will turn to look at signs, accidents, or events taking place outside the window. While checking out the surrounding area can prove beneficial in some cases, it may also prevent drivers from seeing everything around them. That may, in turn, raise the risk that they will suffer a devastating accident.
Reaching for Items
Although any other activity while driving can be a distraction and take drivers’ attention away from the road, many drivers will take their hands off the wheel to reach for another item in the vehicle.
Sometimes, that may mean reaching for a phone that has slid away from the driver during the trip. Other times, it could mean reaching to retrieve an item for a passenger. Even taking a hand off the wheel to retrieve an item can prove very distracting. If the item slides further out of reach, it can prove even more difficult for the driver to fetch it safely.
Talking to Another Passenger
A conversation with a passenger inside a vehicle generally proves less distracting than a conversation with someone on the phone since people cannot see what takes place in the vehicle and may not understand pauses and distractions. However, those conversations may still pose a considerable distraction, especially if they grow emotional or intense. A driver who pays more attention to his passenger and the conversation than to the vehicle’s movement may end up causing a serious accident.
Personal challenges can also make it difficult for drivers to keep their attention on the road. A desperate need to hit the next gas station or rest stop can prove distracting enough that drivers may have difficulty paying attention to the road around them.
Furthermore, drivers may have more trouble navigating the roads safely when they have their attention on personal problems they need to mull over or unexpected events that occur throughout the day. Driving while emotional can increase the risk of road rage incidents and raise overall distraction for the driver.
Listening to Music
Some types of music can aid focus and concentration and may even help keep the driver’s attention locked on the road. However, sometimes, listening to music can take precedence over driving, and the driver may have a much harder time than anticipated retaining that key attention to the task of driving. Furthermore, listening to music may involve changing stations or flipping through songs, and that means drivers will often take their attention and hands away from the wheel to take care of those tasks, raising the danger.
Did You Suffer Injuries in a Distracted Driving Accident?
If you suffered injuries in an accident with a distracted driver, you might deserve compensation for those injuries. Contact a personal injury lawyer as soon after the accident as possible to learn more about your right to compensation and how you can best establish the other driver’s liability for your injuries.