Driver Distraction Is a Deadly and Growing Problem
Drivers in Connecticut are not permitted to use cell phones or other electronic devices behind the wheel, and motorists under the age of 18 in the Constitution State are even prohibited from using hands-free devices while their vehicles are in motion. All states have laws that are designed to prevent distracted driving, and most roads now feature rumble strips that give drivers an audible alert when their vehicles stray. However, these steps do not seem to be doing much to tackle the problem.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, accidents caused by distracted drivers claimed 2,841 lives in 2018 alone. Among the dead were 77 cyclists and 400 pedestrians. These accidents also left tens of thousands of road users badly injured.
An Underreported and Growing Problem
While these figures may be grim, road safety advocacy groups including the National Safety Council do not believe they are telling the full story. NHTSA bases its statistics on accident reports, which experts claim are sometimes perfunctory. Another problem facing accident investigators is that distraction does not leave any tell-tale clues behind, and few motorists are eager to admit that they were using a cell phone when they crashed.
When the NSC found strong evidence of cell phone use in fatal accident reports written between 2009 and 2011, they discovered that only about half of them were coded as involving distraction in the NHTSA database. The problem is far worse in some states than it is in others. Tennessee reports almost four times as many distracted driving accidents as California despite having quieter roads and a far smaller population. New York is one of the most populous states in the country, but it reported only one cell phone-related fatal accident in 2011. NHTSA says that about one in 10 deadly accidents are caused by distractions, but the NSC believes that the true figure is far, far higher.
The Three Types of Distraction
Distraction is dangerous because a car traveling at highway speeds covers a distance equal to the length of a football field in the time it takes to change a radio station or check a cell phone screen. The death rate is so high in distracted driving crashes because motorists who are not paying attention to the road ahead are unable to brake or take evasive action. While cell phones are often seen as the leading cause of distracted driving, they are not the only reason motorists take their eyes and minds off the road. These are the three types of distraction that experts say drivers should watch out for.
- Manual distraction: This is any activity that causes drivers to move their hands from the steering wheel. Manual distractions include adjusting an entertainment system, picking up a cup of coffee or lighting a cigarette.
- Visual distractions: Anything that forces a driver to look away from the road is particularly dangerous. When AT&T surveyed its customers about how they use their electronic devices while driving, 40% of them said that they checked their social media profiles, 30% admitted to accessing the internet and a worrying 10% of the respondents said that they used their cellphones to watch videos.
- Cognitive distractions: These are distinctions that cause the mind to wander. Common causes of cognitive distraction include anxiety, stress and conversations.
Drivers know they are expected to remain vigilant at all times, yet they continue to engage in extremely dangerous behavior despite being aware of the risks. When an insurance comparison website polled American drivers, almost all of them said that distraction is as dangerous as drunk driving. However, more than 40% of the motorists surveyed then admitted to regularly using their cellphones to read and type text messages while behind the wheel.
The problem is also getting worse. When the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety studied the habits of drivers in Virginia, they found that the chances of them using cellphones while their vehicles were moving had increased by 57% in just one year.
Civil Remedies for Distracted Driving Victims
When pursuing lawsuits on behalf of traffic accident victims who may have been injured by a distracted driver, experienced personal injury attorneys may gather evidence of negligence from several sources. These sources include:
- Police reports: The driver who caused the crash may have admitted to using a cell phone, or the investigating officer could have made observations that suggest distraction played a role.
- Wireless service providers: Attorneys may use subpoenas to obtain cell phone records that include timestamps.
- Automobile black boxes: Modern cars store information on black box-type devices under their hoods. If this data reveals that a driver did not brake and made no evasive maneuvers, a jury could conclude that they were likely distracted.
If you have been involved in an accident that may have been caused by distraction, The Moynahan Law Firm could file a lawsuit on your behalf against the negligent driver responsible. We have represented hundreds of Connecticut residents in car accident cases and will work tirelessly to ensure that you receive compensation for your medical bills, pain and suffering, lost income and property damage.
If you would like to know more about your legal options and are interested in scheduling a free consultation, you can contact us online or call us on (203) 597-6364.