Illinois residents who look forward to taking road trips need to be aware that there are higher risks of getting into car accidents when they are traveling. It is important for travelers to understand the factors that contribute to the heightened risk of accidents so they can take preventative steps to minimize their chances of accident involvement while they are on the road. A car accident lawyer may help victims of car accidents that were caused by the negligence of others while they are traveling.
There are several factors that contribute to the increased risk of car accident involvement while traveling by automobile. Drivers who are unaccustomed to driving for long distances may become fatigued and doze off behind the wheel which could cause a crash. They might also be driving on unfamiliar roads and get distracted by maps or passengers. Some road conditions such as uneven pavement or poor lighting may contribute to motor vehicle crashes. Tight curves, hidden driveways and unprotected edges of the road around cliffs may also lead to accidents.
Travelers can take steps to prevent car accidents both before they travel and while they are on the road. They should make certain to check that their tires have good tread and sufficient air pressure. Since travel laws and rules vary from state to state, it is also important for travelers to check the laws and rules of the areas through which they intend to travel. If travelers will be renting a car, they should do so through a reputable company and read through all of the fine print in the rental contracts.
While travelers are on road trips, it is important for them to follow all of the rules of the road. If they feel tired, drivers should pull off the road and get some rest rather than trying to push forward. If they can, travelers should stop for the night and not drive after dark. Drivers and all passengers should use their seatbelts at all times while they are traveling, and drivers should avoid distracting activities while they drive. A car accident lawyer may help if an auto accident happens despite the driver taking cautionary steps to prevent it.
Studies show that approximately 75,000 injuries and 2,500 fatalities occur each year in the U.S. as a result of drowsy driving. Drivers who fall asleep behind the wheel are twice as likely to die in a head-on collision.
Drowsiness can impair driving performance as much as alcohol. Studies link fatigue and sleepiness to decreased functions including decision making, memory, reaction time, coordination skills, and vigilance. All of these skills are necessary for safe driving. The effects of drowsiness on driving performance mimic the effects of drunk driving where a person’s blood alcohol concentration is above the legal limit.
According to the National Sleep Foundation, twelve million drivers admit to having an accident or near accident due to drowsy driving. Studies show that over 60 percent of adult drivers admit to drowsy driving, and almost 38 percent admit to falling asleep while driving. Within the group of drivers who fell asleep at the wheel, 15 percent admit to nodding off while driving at least once a month. When asked, more than 25 percent of drivers admit to driving when they are too sleepy to keep their eyes open. The American Automobile Association (AAA) attributes one out of every six traffic fatalities seen by a car accident lawyer are caused by a drowsy driver behind the wheel. Since drowsy driving is often difficult to determine in car crashes, crash numbers are thought to be significantly underestimated.
Statistics indicate that drowsy driving accidents occur most commonly the following groups:
Commercial truck drivers are especially susceptible to drowsy driving. Studies show that many long-haul truck drivers average less than five hours of sleep over a 24-hour period. The National Transportation Safety Board reports that drowsy driving is responsible for more than 50 percent of fatalities to truck drivers. A car accident lawyer commonly sees trucking accidents that cause serious injuries and fatalities to truck drivers, as well as drivers and passengers in automobiles.
Currently, there is no test or detection system that indicates drowsy driving if drivers are stopped on the road. The National Sleep Foundation suggests that people get seven to nine hours of uninterrupted sleep each night to feel well rested and function at full capacity.
Parking lot accidents caused by distracted drivers account for one in five collisions. Drivers checking cell phones for missed calls, messages and social media updates commonly lead to personal injury claims with an injury lawyer.
According to the National Safety Council, two out of three drivers pulling into parking lots, parking garages and shopping centers are distracted, causing numerous accidents and injuries while in these locations. Cell phones are the leading culprit for parking lot collisions. Drivers commonly make calls and check for missed calls, messages and social media updates while pulling into a parking lot or parking the car. Since drivers are typically going under 10 miles per hour in parking lot areas, there’s a false sense of security that cell phone use is safe. However, accident statistics seen by an injury lawyer show that parking lot collisions often have deadly consequences.
The National Safety Council estimates that each year approximately 60,000 people are injured and 500 more are killed in parking lot accidents in the United States. Studies show that when drivers are going 5 to 10 mph in a parking lot, they often have their heads down and are not paying attention to what’s in front of them. This puts other drivers, as well as pedestrians, at a high risk for serious injuries. In 2016, parking lot video cameras captured images of a young mother pushing her baby in a stroller across a busy laundry mat parking lot when a distracted driver struck them, killing the mother. In another incident, video showed a distracted driver on a cell phone slamming into nine cars before coming to a stop after losing control at the wheel.
Distracted drivers in parking lots cause serious accidents and injuries, especially during holidays and peak shopping hours when cars and pedestrians are at a maximum. Unfortunately, National Safety Council surveys show that 66 percent of drivers say they are comfortable making cell phone calls while driving in a parking lot, and 50 percent say they are comfortable texting. Most drivers surveyed said they would have no problem with checking cell phone messages and social media accounts or sending emails, taking pictures and watching videos while driving at slow speeds. These concerning findings raise questions for drivers and injury lawyers about the need for more parking lot safety measures and local safety laws to prevent parking lot accidents and injuries.
Distracted drivers can seriously injure or kill motorists, their passengers, or pedestrians through their lack of attention to the road. It is estimated that over 430,000 drivers and their passengers are injured by distracted driving every year. In 2015, 3,477 people were killed by distracted drivers. This was a nearly 9% increase over 2014 and is cause for concern as more and more drivers take to American roadways.
It is estimated that nearly 18% of accidents causing injuries involve some form of distracted driving. These causes include daydreaming, talking on cell phones, rubbernecking automobile accidents or roadside events, and engaging in conversation with passengers. Other causes of distracted driving include adjusting the radio, changing the climate controls, smoking, and reaching for objects within the passenger compartment of the vehicle.
There are three primary types of distractions that can take a motorist’s attention away from their driving responsibilities:
Visual – These distractions take the drivers visual focus away from the road. Actions such as rubbernecking are responsible for approximately 7% of automobile accidents, while other visual distractions such as using cell phones are responsible for 12% of distracted driving accidents.
Mental Distractions – Mental distractions remove the driver’s mental focus from their driving responsibilities. Mental distractions include behaviors such as daydreaming which is responsible for 62% of distracted driving accidents, and conversing with passengers which is responsible for 5% of accidents.
Physical/Manual Distractions – Physical and manual distractions include adjusting vehicle controls, sending text messages, eating food, smoking, drinking, etc. Combined, these actions are estimated to be responsible for between 3% and 5% of automobile accidents.
While distracted driving knows no demographic boundaries, it is a problem that acutely affects younger motorists. Drivers between the ages of 15 and 19 years of age are responsible for approximately 10% of distracted driving accidents, while motorists between the ages of 20 and 30 years old are responsible for approximately 27% of distracted driving accidents.
Drivers within these two demographics are responsible for 38% of distracted driving accidents involving cell phone usage. In fact, drivers within these demographics who use their cell phones for texting while driving are 23 times more likely to cause a fatal accident than those who do not.
The proliferation of smartphones in the United States is considerable and today more than 200 million people in the country have a smartphone in their pocket. Roughly 56% of motorists admit to having sent a text, updated their social media account, perused videos, or browsed the web while driving.
The National Safety Council estimates that these activities are responsible for 1.6 million accidents every year. Nearly one in four of these accidents is caused by texting alone. It’s a considerable problem and the NSC further estimates that at any given moment of the day, nearly 650,000 motorists are using their cell phone while driving instead of focusing on the road.
In response to growing concerns over motorist safety, the State of Illinois has banned the use of hand held mobile devices while driving for all motorists. However, motorists over the age of 19 are allowed to utilize hands free devices while operating their motor vehicle. While this law is intended to help reduce the number of accidents caused by texting and talking while driving, it still poses a safety hazard as motorists can still have their mental and cognitive focus shifted away from the road.
Motorists can be held liable for causing a distracted driving accident, as can their employers if the accident occurs on company time. Drivers who daydream, text while driving, or otherwise fail to pay attention to conditions on the road are liable for failing to exercise due care. They may also be held liable under the theory of “per se” liability. In other words, their violation of the rules of the road led to the automobile accident.
An individual’s employer may also be held liable for causing a distracted driving accident. For example, a delivery driver who is forced to respond immediately to a text message or answer an incoming call from a dispatcher. In such cases, the company’s actions deliberately removed the drivers focus from the road which can cause an automobile accident.
A car accident lawyer can help prove and establish liability for a distracted driving accident. This may be done through the review of cell phone records, via witness statements, video and photographic evidence, and accident reconstruction. In Illinois, motorists may pursue claims for medical expenses, property damage, loss of income, impact to quality of life, and the loss of consortium that a distracted driving accident may cause.