One of the most common causes of auto accidents is something we’re all incredibly prone to — distraction.
In this article, McAllen personal injury lawyer Dr. Louis Patino explores the dangers of distracted driving, how to avoid it, and what to do if you’re injured in an accident caused by a distracted driver.
What Makes Distracted Driving So Dangerous?
Other leading causes like speeding, driving while intoxicated, and aggressive or reckless driving require the driver to decide to act in a certain way. A person running late for work consciously chooses to drive faster. An intoxicated driver intentionally drinks alcohol and decides to get behind the wheel. An individual who runs another motorist off the road resolves to act aggressively.
But it’s because it’s easy to get distracted that this type of accident is so dangerous.
While some forms of distracted driving require an intentional act, others can happen through no fault of the driver and cause a dangerous — or deadly — accident.
An accident can happen in the blink of an eye. You can be driving safely one moment and in a guardrail or another vehicle the next.
You might check your GPS when driving down an unfamiliar road, only to look up and see a hazard too late.
You might even sneeze. Sneezing causes you to involuntarily close your eyes, and it can net you a citation for distracted driving because it takes your eyes off the road.
What Constitutes Distracted Driving?
Any activity that takes a driver’s attention away from driving can be considered distracted driving. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) splits such activities into three categories:
- Visual: Any activity that takes your eyes away from the road.
- Manual: Any activity that takes your hands off the wheel.
- Cognitive: Any activity that takes your mind off driving.
Examples range from the seemingly innocent — like talking to a passenger or adjusting vehicle controls — to the reckless, such as applying makeup or texting. Distracted driving can also involve:
- Talking on the phone
- Combing hair
- Eating and drinking
- Changing music or radio stations
- Tending to children
- Reaching for objects
- Watching videos
- Using social media
- Reading maps or directions
- Engaging in arguments or intense conversations
- Looking at billboards, signs, or scenery.
You might not think taking your eyes off the road for a moment could be so dangerous, but consider this: reading a text at 55 miles per hour is like driving the length of a football field with your eyes closed.
But preventive measures can help reduce the risk.
How to Reduce the Risk of Distracted Driving
Sadly, we will always encounter motorists who fail to consider the risks of their conduct. But if we do our bit to control our actions, we can combat distracted driving and reduce the number of deadly accidents that result.
Silencing your cell phone, using a hands-free device if you must take a call, setting your GPS before driving and familiarizing yourself with the route, and eating before setting out or pulling over to eat and drink so you’re not tempted to snack on the road are all proactive measures that can minimize the risk of an accident.
Establishing boundaries with passengers and keeping children occupied — such as by giving them a game to play — can also reduce potential distractions.
The health and safety of motorists should be the motivation for combatting driver inattention, but the added benefit is that it can help safeguard against insurance premium hikes.
Claiming Compensation If You’re Hurt in an Accident Caused by a Distracted Driver
If you sustain injuries in an accident caused by someone’s negligent or reckless behavior, you can recover compensation for your losses. These losses — called damages — can include your lost wages, vehicle repairs, and the cost of medical treatment you need for your injuries — from appointments, scans, tests, and medication to surgeries and long-term rehabilitation.
You can also receive damages for post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, depression, and other disorders and their associated costs, including therapy.
The ideal scenario is to file a claim with the at-fault driver’s insurance company and negotiate a fair settlement. However, if the parties don’t agree or the insurance company disputes your claim, you can file a personal injury lawsuit.
Whatever the case, you need evidence to demonstrate that the distracted driver breached the duty of care they owe you as a fellow motorist through their negligence or recklessness and that their distraction caused the accident resulting in your injuries.
Evidence can be wide-ranging and include:
- Police reports
- Medical records
- Photographs and videos of your injuries and the accident scene
- Eyewitness statements
- Phone records
- Surveillance footage
- Accident reconstructions
- Physical evidence, such as personal belongings.
Let’s look at some examples.
Texting While Driving
You sustain a head injury in a crash caused by a texting driver. Phone records prove the driver had sent a text message when the collision happened. The police report filed by law enforcement after the accident shows “texting” as a contributing factor to the crash.
Personal Grooming While Driving
A motorist crashes into you while applying makeup. A witness states they saw the driver apply a product to their eyes. The attending officer reports the driver having smeared mascara as if wet, and a photograph of the inside of the driver’s vehicle shows an open mascara tube on the passenger seat.
Sneezing While Driving
A driver sneezes and closes their eyes. As a result, they didn’t see you brake for a stoplight, causing them to rear-end your car.
The sneezing driver explains they have allergies and have been sneezing all day. Eyewitnesses and CCTV footage show the driver made no attempt to stop or pull over before sneezing and was not maintaining a further distance from your car to give them more time to react if they needed to sneeze. As a result, you argue the driver was negligent because they were aware of the danger of sneezing while driving and failed to take appropriate action to minimize the risk they posed to others.
It can be challenging to prove a driver was negligent in this scenario because sneezing is involuntary.
You must speak to a personal injury attorney if you’re in an accident caused by a distracted driver. They can explore your options for recovering compensation, gather evidence, postpone your medical bills, negotiate a fair settlement, and advocate for you in court.