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.