We have all been there: a car swerves into traffic cutting you off. You almost rear-end them. As you change lanes and pass them, you can’t help but notice an all-too-familiar sight; the driver is staring at their phone. Distracted driving is a leading cause of motor vehicles accidents in the United States. What are the real dangers of texting and driving? What should you do if you are involved in a distracted driving accident?
Distracted Driving Statistics
According to a report by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), nearly 3500 people died in distracted driving accidents in 2015. Another 391,000 were injured. These are pretty startling figures. As technology continues to become ever-present in our lives, we can only expect this number to increase.
If you break those numbers down, that is eight deaths each day; 1,161 injuries are due to distracting driving daily. Of the 2.5 million road accidents that occur each year, 1.6 million involve a mobile device. That equates to almost 65% of all vehicle accidents.
Finally, nearly 80% of all distracted drivers are found to have been texting while driving. It is no wonder then that 1/4 of all accidents occur because of the desire to read or send a text. In fact, by some measures, you are five times more likely to get into an accident texting than you are drinking; not that we condone drinking! But hopefully shedding light on these startling numbers will help prevent more traffic fatalities.
What is Distracted Driving
Now that we know some of the scary numbers revolving around distracted driving, it is time to answer an important question: what, exactly, qualifies as distracted? Does eating count? How about petting your dog while you drive them to the vet? The simple answer is: yes.
Technically, distracted driving is any activity that draws attention away from driving. This can include a simple conversation with a friend or changing the radio station. Even your GPS can is a distraction, as it averts your focus off of the road.
The Center for Disease Control (CDC) defines three types of distracted driving: visual, manual, and cognitive. Visual entails you taking your eyes off the road. Manual refers to your hands coming off of the wheel. Cognitive means that you are taking your focus off of driving. Of all the distractions that you partake in while driving texting is the worst. Why? Because it utilizes all three of the distraction methods.
To put it in perspective, reading a text, or sending a text while driving the speed limit is equivalent to driving the length of a football field in five seconds without opening your eyes. Food for thought.
What to Do If You Are Involved in A Distracted Driving Accident
Regardless of blame, the first thing you should do if you are involved in a distracted driving accident is check for injuries. First, check yourself. If you are okay and safe to move, then check your passengers. Then, if anyone has injuries, call an ambulance immediately. If another vehicle is involved, check the passengers in the other car. Next, call 911 and report any injuries to either party. The dispatcher will send medical help if needed. Otherwise, a police officer will arrive to record the incident. Be certain that you remain at the scene until they arrive. Always obtain a police report after an accident.
You will also want to gather information from the other party. Collect their insurance, identification, automobile tag, and contact information. If there are nearby witnesses, gather their contact information as well, if possible. You may need their testimony if you appear in court.
Another essential element in the info gathering process is photographing the accident. Use your cell phone to document everything. Take photos of the damaged vehicles and passengers. If there was an outside cause, take pictures of that. For example, a faulty street light or inclement weather. Mark down data such as the date and time, whether your smelled alcohol or any relevant information.
Finally, you will need to call a distracted driving attorney. Whether you caused the accident or not, you should always seek legal counsel. This is particularly the case if a distracted driver is at fault. They can help you obtain compensation for medical expenses, loss of earnings, pain, and suffering, and more.
Types of Distracted Driving
Still confused about types of distracted driving? Here is a list to better define what constitutes this dangerous habit:
Reading or sending text messages
Speaking on your cell phone
Having a conversation with a passenger
Checking your e-mail
Changing your radio station
Interacting with pets
Putting on make-up, shaving, or combing your hair.
Reading a magazine or book
In short: if something is distracting you while driving, don’t do it! You put your life – and others – at risk. If you need to send a text or make a phone call, pull over in a safe spot. Texting isn’t worth the price you could end up paying – financially or otherwise.