With April being designated as Distracted Driving Awareness Month, we thought it appropriate to offer up a quick distracted driving exercise:
The following image is taken from a section of an Indiana accident report page. (Your state's reports may differ visually.) After an officer speaks to the accident victims and/or witnesses, they make a determination regarding the primary cause of the accident and then check one or more of the corresponding boxes below:
In this particular example, the officer has marked Vehicle 1 as being at fault and listed the Primary Cause as "Distracted Driving."
Ready for the question?
Without any additional details about the above accident, what do you guess caused this driver to be distracted?
Before revealing the answer, let's examine a few distracted driving statistics:
- In 2012 3,328 people were killed in crashes where distracted driving was found to be the primary cause.
- The age group of drivers with the highest potential to be involved in a distracted driving accident is 20-years-old. (10% of of 20-year-olds who were killed in accidentswere found to be distracted at the time of the collision.)
- The average person takes their eyes off the road for 5 seconds when sending a text message. A vehicle traveling at 55 mph has traveled the length of a football field in this amount of time, all while the driver is essentially driving blind
- According to VTTI, a person using a headset cell phone is almost as equally dangerous as someone holding a phone.
Back to the exercise. (Still remember your answer?)
The second page of every Indiana accident report offers a narrative where the officer transcribes an account of the events leading up to the accident. In the above-referenced incident, the officer notes the reason for this particular collision was because "the driver looked down to change the radio station." The collision caused injuries to both drivers that required hospitalization.
Was "cell phone" your answer?
Even though "Cell Phone Usage" was not checked in the above image, it's still probable that a large percentage of people assumed a phone was to blame for the accident.
What's the point we're trying to make?
With an entire month dedicated to Distracted Driving Awareness; countless national corporate campaigns, such as AT&T's 'It Can Wait' project; and an increasing stream of news stories about accidents involving texting-and-driving, most of us have simply forgotten that distracted driving can be caused by any number of factors, and each of them have the potential to cause serious injuries and/or death.
Common Causes of Distracted Driving
The following list (not ranked in any particular order) is a short collection of devices/factors we have seen cited on Indiana accident reports in association with causes of distracted driving:
- GPS unit
- Car radio/stereo
- Reading (Newspaper/Book)
- Cell Phone
- MP3 player (iPod)
- Pets (dogs/cats)
This collection includes a number of expected offenders as well as a couple of surprises, and while cell phones continue to be one of the leading causes of distracted driving, this problem is far from just a texting-and-driving or talking-and-driving crisis.
Distracted Driving Laws
Similar to the answer given for the accident report exercise, most people mistakenly assume that distracted driving laws only pertain to cell phones or other telecommunication devices, however, this is not true. In fact, every state has general distracted driving laws of various types, and if you're violate these laws you can be ticketed and face a substantial fine.
In the states of Arizona, Hawaii, Connecticut and Maine, a driver can be ticketed for driving with a pet on their lap, and other states are looking into similar legislation.
(Legalities notwithstanding, driving with a pet in your lap is a dangerous practice. It increases the likelihood something could go wrong, leading to an accident that seriously injures you, another driver, and/or your pet.)
Another set of laws implemented to prevent distracted driving accidents--not aimed at cell phones--is designed for teenage drivers who first obtain their license. In this instance, the majority of states' laws prohibit 16 and 17 year old drivers from having passengers in their vehicle for a set period of months.
For example, Indiana prohibits a new teen driver from having a passenger for the first 6 months of having their license. (Exceptions to the passenger rule in Indiana include another licensed driver who is at least 25 years old, a certified driving instructor or parent/guardian over the age of 21 in the front seat, with exceptions of child, sibling or spouse.)
For a list of your state's cell phone laws and restrictions, you can visit the Governor's Highway Safety Association Distracted Driving Laws Chart.
We offer a Zero Fee Guarantee to anyone who was injured by a distracted driver. This means that a consultation with any of our personal injury lawyers is free, and the only way our firm receives payment for its legal services is if a recovery is made on your behalf.
You can contact us at 1-800-253-5537, or write to us with the details of your accident by using our confidential, free online contact form.