In today's hectic culture, it comes as no surprise that we face more distractions nowadays than ever before. Unfortunately, that reality is translating to more injuries and deaths on the road. According to the CDC, distracted driving kills as many as 3500 people a year—approximately 9 per day. Additionally, as many as 1000 people a day are injured in vehicle accidents involving distracted drivers. What are the underlying causes for these numbers, and what do they mean for today's drivers, passengers, and pedestrians?
What Is Distracted Driving?
In the modern age, many people equate distracted driving with texting while driving. Still, in a wider sense, distracted driving encompasses any situation in which the driver is distracted from safe driving functions. The CDC breaks distracted driving down into three categories:
- Manual distraction—taking one's hands off the wheel (e.g., to adjust the radio, take a bite of food, or pet the dog);
- Visual distraction—taking one's eyes off the road (e.g., to talk to a passenger, look at the GPS, or even fixate on something on the side of the road); and
- Cognitive distraction—taking one's mind off the task of driving (e.g., daydreaming, pondering a problem)
As you can see, there are a plethora of ways people's attention can be diverted from the road—and every time it happens, the risk for an accident goes up.
Common Causes for Distracted Driving
Why do drivers have such a difficult time focusing on the road, and what are the most common causes? A few years ago, an insurance company did a study on the most common distracted driving factors in fatal accidents. Surprisingly, cellphone use was not at the top of the list. (More on that momentarily.) Among the most common:
- General distraction (daydreaming). That's right. About 62 percent of the accidents involved drivers who had just let their minds wander.
- Cellphone use (talking/texting). About 12 percent of fatalities involved improper use of a cellphone while driving.
- Outside distractions (e.g., “rubbernecking”)—7 percent.
- Engaging other people in the car—5 percent.
- Reaching for objects, eating/drinking, adjusting controls—tied at 2 percent.
Other common causes included smoking, petting animals, and using other integrated vehicle controls (e.g., adjusting mirrors or navigation controls).
Where Does Texting and Cellphone Use Fit In?
The emergence of the cellphone has dramatically increased our capacity for distracted driving. While the study above doesn't place texting-while-driving at the top of the list, it's considered one of the most dangerous forms of distracted driving because it encompasses all three types of distractions at once (cognitive, manual, and visual). Even using hands-free devices to talk on the phone (in places where it's legal) is not considered safe because it still creates a cognitive distraction. (It's also worth mentioning that texting while driving is one of the easiest ways to prove fault in a distracted driving accident because the activity is so measurable.)
Distracted Driving and Injury Accidents
Regardless of the cause of distraction, a distracted driver can still be held liable for any damage or injury they cause in the process. If you or someone you love has been injured in an accident due to distracted driving, you may be eligible for compensation. That being said, because distracted driving can be difficult to prove, you should engage an experienced personal injury attorney before attempting to file a personal injury claim involving distracted driving. The lawyers at Inman & Tourgee have extensive experience with cases such as these. To learn how we can help, reach out to us online or call (401) 823-9200.