Driving While Distracted? It Could Cost You.
North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper recently declared April “Distracted Driving Awareness Month”. Unfortunately, distracted driving is a major public safety concern in our state causing more than 25,000 injuries and 152 deaths in 2017.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates over 800,000 vehicles are being operated by someone who is also using a cell phone at any given time. With the average time to read a text message averaging at just under 5 seconds, a car is covering a significant amount of road in this time, ultimately increasing the chances of a car crash.
What Is Distracted Driving?
According to the NHTSA, distracted driving is defined as any activity that diverts one’s attention from driving. These days, most of us tend to imagine drivers with their cell phones, busily texting away or checking their Facebook page. However, distracted driving is caused by a myriad of different reasons and can be classified into three types of distractions: manual, visual, and cognitive.
Manual distractions occur when the driver is distracted by something involving their hands. They are also some of the more common distractions that led to accidents. Some examples of these are:
- Talking on the phone
- Eating and drinking
- Grooming (changing clothes, combing hair, applying makeup)
- Adjusting the radio
Whereas manual distractions cause drivers to take their hands off the wheel, visual distractions cause them to take their eyes off the road. Many times, these two types of distractions overlap; texting while driving means distracting yourself both manually and visually. Other examples include:
- Reading text messages
- Reading any type of content on your cell phone
- Looking in the mirror to check your appearance
- Focusing on another passenger
- Looking at a GPS
- Looking at video on electronic devices, including cell phones
A cognitive distraction is one that takes the driver’s mind off the road for an extended period of time. These don’t just distract physically and visually, but mentally. Some examples include:
- Focusing on a phone call
- Listening to someone else in the car
- Caring for or disciplining your children
- Focusing on situations unrelated to your drive (stress, work, etc.)
What Are the Distracted Driving Laws?
The dangers of distracted driving, especially texting while driving, have led many states to issue laws against certain practices in order to ensure safety on the road. Some states have general laws against distracted driving while most prohibit specific activities that commonly cause distractions.
North Carolina specifically prohibits anyone from writing, reading or sending text messages (or emails) while driving. If you are under the age of 18 or a bus driver, you are not allowed to use a mobile phone at all while driving. If you are caught breaking these laws, police could write you a ticket.
The Governor’s Highway Safety Program has launched a new campaign called “One Text or Call Could Wreck It All” with a goal to educate the public on the dangers of mobile phone use and other distractions while driving. Drivers should expect an increase in enforcement of distracted driving laws from this campaign.
What Can You Do to Prevent Distracted Driving?
This month, you can join the movement to end distracted driving and pledge to be the change. By following these seven tips from the AAA National Safety Council (NSC), you can help prevent distracted driving accidents.
- Consider using apps that lock your phone. There are apps or features available for Apple iOS and Android that lock your phone’s settings while your vehicle is in motion.
- Make adjustments before driving. It is important to program your GPS, adjust mirrors or choose your music playlist (or radio station) before you get on the road. You could become distracted if you make these (or other) adjustments while driving.
- Eat or groom before driving. You should snack or eat before getting on the road. Eating while driving increases your risk of causing an accident. Grooming can also distract you while driving and should be done at home.
- Teach your teenagers about distracted driving. The NSC recommends discussing the dangers of distracted driving with teenage drivers in your family. Consider creating a “safe driving agreement”. The agreement would define safe driving and consequences for violating its terms. You should also consider limiting passengers for your teenage drivers.
- Strap your dogs in. Dogs can be immensely distracting while driving, especially if they want something. You could purchase and use harnesses that will keep your dog from wandering around the vehicle.
- Pull over to make calls or send texts. Cell phones are a major distraction whether that be a phone call or text message. Even using Bluetooth or other hands-free methods can distract drivers. Consider pulling over somewhere safe to make phone calls or to send text messages. Remember that sending text messages is illegal in NC while the vehicle is in motion.
- Stay focused on driving. Daydreaming, talking to other passengers or looking at the scenery can distract you while driving. Focus on the road and actively scan for other vehicles, passengers, objects in the road or wildlife.
Do You Need an Attorney If You’re Involved in a Distracted Driving Accident?
If you sustain injuries in a car crash caused by driver distraction, the responding officer may ticket the at-fault driver. However, just as with drunk driving accidents, law enforcement and the criminal justice system do not consider the victim’s injuries or damages. You must file a car insurance claim and/or personal injury lawsuit to obtain compensation. Nevertheless, if the other driver received a ticket for texting and driving, this can be used as evidence of fault. Clear evidence of fault can improve your chances of a fair settlement from a car insurance claim.
Our North Carolina personal injury lawyers have experience with auto accident cases. If you have questions about your legal rights after being hit by a distracted driver, we encourage you to contact us.
The consultation is FREE, and there is no upfront cost or attorney fee unless we win your case and you receive financial compensation.