Distracted Driving Accidents
9% of all fatal crashes in the United States in 2019 involved distracted drivers, and these crashes led to 3,142 deaths, according to the NHTSA. About 26,000 lives were lost in the United States from 2012-2019 due to distracted driving.
Mobile phones are one of the most convenient technologies available to us today. They allow us to keep in constant contact with important people, take pictures and videos wherever we go, alleviate our boredom at any given moment, and answer any questions we may have at any given time via the internet. However, mobile phones are also a key source of distraction for drivers: 13% of distraction-affected fatal crashes in the United States in 2019 involved cell phones in use.
There were also 287,000 injury crashes in the United States in 2019 which involved distracted drivers, and 21,000 of these crashes involved cell phone use.
If you’ve been injured in an accident by a distracted driver, you may be eligible for financial compensation in a personal injury claim, as distracted driving is considered negligence and California law allows those injured by negligence to recover damages from those whose negligence caused their injuries.
Consider hiring experienced California car accident lawyers like Nadrich & Cohen if you’ve been injured by a distracted driver. We can help prove your accident was the fault of a distracted driver, protect your legal rights and fight to ensure you receive the largest possible recovery for your injuries.
Distracted Driver Lawsuits
Driving while distracted is considered negligence.
Negligence is not being reasonably careful to prevent harm. It is negligent to not behave as a reasonably careful person would behave in the same situation.
Driving while distracted can also sometimes be considered negligence per se, or negligence by virtue of breaking the law, since California has laws against cell phone use while driving.
The following must be proven in a distracted driving personal injury lawsuit in order to establish negligence:
- The at-fault driver owed you a duty of care, such as the duty to pay attention to the road;
- The at-fault driver breached this duty of care by recklessly driving while distracted even though they knew doing so could put others in danger;
- You were injured in an accident;
- The at-fault driver caused the accident which injured you by negligently driving while distracted, breaching their duty of care in the process.
Proving negligence can be difficult and time-consuming, but experienced auto accident lawyers like Nadrich & Cohen can gather evidence and hire the best accident reconstruction experts to help prove that your injuries were caused by someone else’s negligence.
Almost all of our cases settle out of court for the full, fair value of our clients’ injuries because insurance companies respect us. They respect us because they know about our long, consistent track record of success in representing auto accident injury victims.
Conversely, insurance companies won’t respect you if you don’t have a lawyer. They’ll know you can’t beat their expensive corporate lawyers in court, so they’ll offer you peanuts for your injuries, daring you to take them to court over it.
If you’ve been injured in an accident by a distracted driver, the tough, the personal injury accident lawyers at Nadrich & Cohen can force insurance companies to respect you and pay you what you deserve for your injuries.
What Is Distracted Driving?
Simply put, distracted driving is driving while doing something else that distracts your attention away from the road.
Driving distractions are separated into three groups:
Visual: Visual distractions are distractions which take your eyes off of the road. Visual distractions include:
- Looking at your cell phone
- Checking your child’s seat belt in your rear view mirror
- Looking at billboards on the side of the road
- Looking at a GPS system
- Looking at crash scenes
- Looking at a passenger
- Checking yourself in your rear view mirror
- Grooming yourself
- Reaching for fallen objects
- Looking for items in your car
- Changing your music
- Reading newspapers or maps
Visual distractions can be dangerous because dangers, such as someone braking suddenly in front of you or a pedestrian suddenly running out into the road, can appear in an instant while you’re not looking at the road. Taking your eyes off of the road for just two seconds doubles your crash risk.
Manual: Manual distractions are distractions which take your hands off of the steering wheel. Manual distractions include:
- Making a non-hands-free cell phone call
- Grooming yourself
- Reaching for fallen objects
- Changing your music
- Eating or drinking
- Adjusting vehicle instruments/controls
- Looking through your wallet or purse
- Adjusting your child’s seat belt
You may think that driving with only one hand on the wheel is safe, but it has actually been proven to inhibit steering ability and slow your reaction times. For example, eating while driving can slow your reaction times by around 44%.
Cognitive: Cognitive distractions are distractions which cause you to lose your mental focus on the act of driving. Any visual or manual distraction can be considered a cognitive distraction as well. Additional cognitive distractions include:
- Listening to music
- Mental stress
- Talking on the phone hands-free
- Talking with a passenger
- Using speech-to-text to send or receive texts or emails
- Thinking about something upsetting
- Driving while drowsy
- Driving while under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs
- Road rage
Cognitive distractions may not seem as dangerous as manual or visual distractions, but cognitively distracted drivers don’t notice almost half of the visual information around them like vehicles, signs and signals, have delayed reaction times, and have reduced activity in the parts of the brain which are active while driving.
The most dangerous distractions are distractions which are visual, manual and cognitive distractions. Texting while driving is perhaps the most common and dangerous visual, manual and cognitive distraction.
The Dangers Of Texting While Driving
The average text message read or sent in a car takes your eyes off the road for five seconds. You blindly travel the length of an entire football field when you spend five seconds reading or sending a text while driving at 55 miles per hour.
- About 25% of all car accidents in the United States are caused by texting and driving;
- The Institute of Industrial Engineers found that drivers are 20 times more likely to be in an accident while texting than while driving while intoxicated;
- A Car and Driver study found that while driving legally drunk only adds four feet to stopping distance while driving 35 miles per hour, sending a text adds 70 feet to stopping distance at the same speed.
The Virginia Tech Transportation Institute did a study which investigated the crash risk associated with various activities while driving a truck/heavy vehicle. The study found that talking/listening had no effect on crash rate, dialing increased the crash risk by 5.9 times and using or reaching for an electronic device increased the crash risk by 6.7 times.
However, the study found that text messaging increased the crash risk by a staggering 23.2 times.
California Distracted Driving Laws
California’s distracted driving laws can be summarized as follows:
- Motorists may not talk on a cellphone when driving unless they are using the phone in hands-free mode;
- Motorists may not use any function of a handheld wireless device, such as text messaging, web browsers or GPS, while driving except if using the function in a hands-free manner;
- Motorists under the age of 18 may not use wireless devices while driving, even in hands-free mode, except to place calls for emergency purposes.
The base fine for a first violation of California’s distracted driving laws is $20, and for subsequent violations the base fine is $50. However, additional fees and assessments are typically added onto the base fines, so first violations will typically end up costing you over $150 and subsequent violations will usually end up costing you over $250 each.
AB 47, which went into effect on July 1, mandates that a point be assessed against a driver’s driving record if they are convicted of a distracted driving violation within 36 months of a previous distracted driving conviction.
The ban on talking on a cellphone without using hands-free mode does not apply to drivers on private property, drivers placing emergency calls, or emergency service professionals driving authorized emergency vehicles. Using a hand to turn on or off a mounted GPS is allowed as long as only a single tap or swipe is necessary. Bus drivers are allowed to use cellphones for emergency or work-related reasons.
The police can pull over Californians solely for violating any of the above laws, except the ban on underage drivers using hands-free drivers, which can only be enforced if the driver is pulled over for a different violation, such as speeding.
How To Avoid a Distracted Driving Accident
Distracted driving is very dangerous, so here are some tips to help you avoid an accident:
- Put your phone away where it won’t tempt you to use it. Pull over if you need to use it. Turn it off before driving. If you need to, say, use a phone’s map function for directions, use it in hands-free mode, mount it to the dashboard, have it read directions to you out loud so you don’t need to look at the phone, and use smartphone features like Android’s driving mode or Apple’s do not disturb while driving mode to disable distractions like social media notifications or incoming texts. Never hold your phone in your hand while driving. Do not engage in hands-free texting. Do not engage in hands-free calling unless in an emergency.
- Don’t multitask. If you need to do something like read an email, make a phone call, send a text, pick your music, adjust your mirrors, set a GPS destination, apply makeup, post on social media or look for an item in the car, do it before your trip, not once you start driving.
- Have a designated texter. You’ve probably heard of designated drivers, but designated texters can help you stay safe as well. If you’re not alone in your vehicle, assign a passenger to reading and sending texts for you.
- Pull over if you’re too tired. Driving while you’re feeling drowsy is one of the most dangerous forms of distracted driving, and can be more dangerous than even driving drunk.
- Limit how many passengers you have in your vehicle. More passengers means more chances that one of them distracts you.
- Don’t eat while you drive. Eating can be a visual, manual and cognitive distraction at the same time by taking your mind off driving, your hand off the steering wheel and your eyes off the road. Eat before your trip so you don’t get hungry while driving. Pull over to eat if you do get hungry while driving.
- Don’t try to pick up anything you drop. If you drop something, leave it on the floor of your vehicle until you can pull over or reach your destination.
- Make sure pets and children are properly secured. This isn’t just for their safety, but it can also prevent them from distracting you while you drive. Pull off the road to safely take care of them if they require your attention. Teach your children that you won’t respond to them without pulling over first.
- Don’t record videos while driving, no matter how interesting what is happening outside your vehicle is. If you would like to record videos of what goes on outside your vehicle, purchase a dash cam for this.
- Discuss distracted driving with your employer. Tell your employer you have to limit your texting and phone conversations while you drive.
- Keep your eyes on the road. Avoid glancing at billboards or unusual buildings. You should scan your mirrors every 5-8 seconds and move your eyes every two seconds.
- Avoid discussions that are too interesting or intense. Tell your passengers to save these discussions for later when you’re not driving so the discussions don’t distract you.
- Avoid smoking. Smoking while driving can be very distracting, especially if you lose part of your cigarette while you’re driving. Imagine how distracting hot ash falling on you could be.
- Stay calm. Don’t let other drivers’ aggressive or erratic driving bother you. Keep your distance from aggressive or erratic drivers and let them go ahead of you if they seem determined to do so.
- Let others know when you’ll be driving. Tell friends, your boss, your co-workers and your family that you’ll be driving before your trip and let them know you won’t be able to respond. This will take some of the pressure off of you to respond to their texts and calls.
Distracted Driving Statistics
- Drivers between the ages of 16 and 24 are distracted by mobile devices at higher rates than other age groups.
- About 400,000 people were injured due to distracted driving in the United States in 2018.
- 3.2% of drivers stopped at intersections were talking on cell phones, according to a 2018 survey.
- Around 20% of those killed in crashes involving distracted drivers in 2018 were riding a bike, walking, or otherwise not inside a vehicle.
- 4.2% of drivers estimated to be between 16 and 24 years old, and 2.1% of all drivers were observed manipulating cell phones in 2018.
- 25% of distracted drivers in fatal crashes in 2018 were between the ages of 20 and 29.
- A 2013 study found that drivers who frequently use their cell phones while driving perform more hard braking, change lanes more often and drive faster than drivers who rarely use their cell phones while driving.
- A 2019 survey found that 39% of high school students in 2019 who drove in the last 30 days emailed or texted while driving at least once in those days.
- The same survey also found that students who emailed or texted while driving were also more likely to not wear a seat belt, drive drunk or ride with drunk drivers.
- A 2016 study found that drivers are distracted over half the time while they are driving, leading to double the crash risk, and that drivers are interacting with cell phones over 6% of the time, leading to 3.6 times the crash risk.
- Two studies have found that cell phone use while driving is associated with four times the risk of a property-only or injury crash.
- A 2008 study found that all phone-related tasks increased reaction time by a quarter of a second.
- Distracted driving accidents are under-reported, according to the National Safety Council, who estimates that 27% of car crashes in 2015 involved cell phone use. The NSC also estimated that 18% of crashes are caused by texting while driving.
- Taking your eyes off of the road for over two seconds doubles your crash risk, according to the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety.
- Distracted driving occurs in over 36% of trips across the United States, according to Cambridge Mobile Telematics.
- One in every 20 drivers at any given time are using a handheld cell phone.
- Over 58% of teen crashes are caused by driver distraction, according to the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety.
- Drivers can be mentally distracted for up to 27 seconds after using their mobile devices.
- A University of Utah study found that users of cell phones are 5.36 times more likely to crash than undistracted drivers.
- Distracted driving caused about 938,000 accidents in 2018.
- While 84% of drivers find it “unacceptable” to text or send an email while driving, 36% of these drivers admit to doing so in the past month.
- An AT&T survey found that 98% of drivers who regularly use mobile phones are aware of the dangers of texting and driving, yet 75% of them text while driving regularly.
- A 2005 study found that almost 80% of crashes involved driver inattention within three seconds of the crash.
- A 2016 study found that almost half of drivers admitted to reading a text, sending a text, using social media or checking their phone for directions while driving.
- A study of teen drivers found that, compared to when two passengers are present, no passengers being present reduces fatal crashes by 21% and one passenger being present reduces fatal crashes by 7%.
- A 2011 poll found that 86% of drivers admit to eating or drinking while driving, 20% admit to combing or styling their hair while driving, and 14% admit to applying makeup while driving.
- Eating and drinking while driving increases crash risks by 80%, according to the NHTSA.
- A Farmers Insurance survey found that 32% of Millennial and Gen Z drivers admitted to video chatting while driving, 28% admitted to viewing or posting on social media while driving, 27% admitted to playing video games while driving, and 24% admitted to streaming video while driving.
- A 2013 study found that phone calls increased crash risks for novice drivers by 8.3 times.
- A 2016 study found that dialing a phone number on a cell phone increased crash risks by 12.2 times.
- The NHTSA found that drivers are distracted by phones at least 10% of the time they spend driving.
- An AAA study found that 31% of people who drive with dogs admit to being distracted by them, and only 17% use pet restraints while driving.
- 65% of dog owners admit that they tend to their dogs while they drive.
- One in three female drivers admit to taking photographs while driving.
- Society is burdened by a cost of $40 billion per year by distracted driving.
- Distracted driving is the leading cause of auto accidents, and as many as 1,000 people are injured by distracted driving every day.
- 71% of large truck accidents occur because of drivers doing something else than driving their truck, according to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.
- 2% of traffic fatalities are caused by drivers adjusting their vehicles’ climate or audio controls.
- Listening to podcasts or music while driving reduces a driver’s attention span to the road by 40%.
- 25% of teenagers admit that they answer a text every time they drive.
- Texting and driving leads to drivers’ eyes spending 400% more time not looking at the road.