Driving requires a lot of attention – visually, physically, and cognitively. When a driver is behind the wheel, they must pay attention to the road in front of them and the surrounding areas. They must keep their hands on the wheel and their mind on driving tasks.
Because it's a driver's duty to take reasonable action to ensure the safety of others on the road, the focus on driving must be maintained throughout the drive. Distracted driving, or diverting attention from driving tasks, is a breach of the driver's duty of care. If they engage in such conduct and cause an accident, they could be liable for resulting damages.
What Is Distracted Driving?
Generally, distracted driving is when a driver pays attention to anything other than driving tasks. In other words, they take their eyes off the road, their hands off the wheel, and their minds off driving.
Distracted driving is often associated with talking on the phone or texting while driving. However, doing practically anything not required for controlling the vehicle could be considered distracted driving.
A few examples of distracted driving include:
- Conversing with passengers
- Adjusting the radio
- Using the entertainment or navigation system
- Searching for items in passenger seats or footwells
These activities prevent safe driving, and they can have devastating and lasting consequences for the drivers who engage in them and those with whom they share the road.
The Consequences of Distracted Driving
In January of 2021, The Zebra surveyed American drivers to identify driving behaviors.
Respondents admitted to doing the following while driving:
- Eating (52.5%)
- Texting (23.6%)
- Taking photos (11.7%)
- Applying makeup (6.5%)
- Drinking (3.4%)
These statistics are surprising in that we expect those on the road to give their full attention to driving. But it appears they are not (at least those surveyed by The Zebra).
Although distracted driving seems common, that does not mean it is safe or okay. When a driver does not completely attend to what they are doing, the chance of them being involved in a crash increase. To illustrate, if a person traveling at 55 mph takes their eyes off the road for just 5 seconds, they could travel the length of a football field without paying attention to what's in front of or around them. Just a few seconds of inattention and they put themselves and others at risk of injury or death.
In 2019, over 3,100 people lost their lives in accidents involving distracted drivers (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration). That equates to about eight deaths a day and accounts for nearly 9% of all fatalities. That same year, 424,000 people were injured in distraction-involved crashes (NHTSA).
An accident resulting in injury or death can upend the lives of victims. They might not be able to enjoy life as they once did. They could lose their jobs and source of income, making it difficult, if not impossible, to support themselves and their families.
What to Do If Involved in an Accident with a Distracted Driver
As noted earlier, distracted driving could be considered a breach of a driver's duty of care. If a negligent driver causes an accident, victims are entitled to hold them financially responsible for expenses and losses they suffered.
If you were in an accident caused by a distracted driver, below are the steps you can take to pursue just compensation:
- Call the police: If you're able to do so, immediately after the crash, call for emergency assistance.
- Get medical treatment: Have a doctor assess your injuries. Be sure to seek care right away. Waiting to get or refusing medical care could affect your claim.
- Take pictures and videos of the scene: If you're able to, get photos and videos of the crash site. These images can reveal important details to help build the story about what happened. Also, take notes on anything you can recall concerning the crash, such as seeing the driver pick up their phone, causing them to miss a stop sign.
- Identify witnesses and get their contact information: Anyone who was around at the time of the accident might have seen the driver texting, talking on the phone, or engaging in other distracted driving behaviors.
- Get a copy of the police report: The police report is the officer's record of the scene and includes their observations and statements made by witnesses and those involved in the crash. It can be a substantial piece of evidence when developing your case.
- Retain copies of medical records and bills: The type of medical care you received and how much it cost will affect your claim's value.
- Consult with an attorney: Filing an accident claim can be complex and proving that the at-fault driver was distracted can be even more challenging. A personal injury lawyer has the resources to build your case.
A person's life can change instantly because one driver decided to respond to a text, make a phone call, have a quick snack, or do anything other than focus on driving.
At the Law Offices of Keith J. Nedwick, P.C., we protect the rights of car accident victims. Our Norman, OK, team is committed to holding wrongdoers accountable, especially if they were engaged in unsafe driving behaviors.
To schedule a consultation with us, call (866) 590-8173 or submit an online contact form.