Distracted Driving Accidents

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What is distracted driving? A simple definition would be anything that takes a driver's attention off the road. Safety experts recognize three major types of distracted driving:

  • Manual – Distraction that takes a driver's hands off the wheel.
  • Cognitive – Distraction that takes a driver's mind off the situation at hand.
  • Visual – Distraction that takes a driver's eyes off the road.

The most dangerous types of distraction are those that involve all three, for example, texting while driving.

Distracted Driving Statistics & Facts

According to the California Office of Traffic Safety, an overwhelming 80% of vehicle crashes involve some sort of driver inattention.

Consider these other shocking statistics:

  • In 2012, more than 3,000 people were killed in distracted driving crashes.
  • The same year, more than 421,000 people were injured in distraction crashes.
  • 16% of distracted driving crashes are caused by drivers under the age of 20.
  • In 2009, 20% of distracted driving car accidents involved serious injuries.
  • In 2009, 16% of distracted driving car accidents resulted in fatalities.
  • At any point in time, about 660,000 drivers on U.S. roads are driving distracted.
  • Sending or reading a text message increases the risk of being in a car accident by 23 times

Unfortunately, a rising number of people throughout the country are guilty of distracted driving:

  • 69% of Americans say they have talked on their cell while driving within the past 30 days
  • 71% of teens / young people confessed to writing and sending text messages while driving
  • 78% of teens / young people confessed to reading a text message while driving
  • 10% of all drivers under the age of 20 involved in fatal crashes were driving distracted

Distracted Driving Awareness Month

Distracted driving has become such a serious problem in the U.S. that the National Safety Council has instituted Distracted Driving Awareness Month every April. The NSC and other organizations use this month in particular to spread the word about the dangers of distracted driving and tips for safe driving.

Distracted Driving Laws in California

In the state of California, there are four major statewide laws in place to combat distracted driving:

  • A ban on handheld cellphone use for all drivers
  • A ban on handheld and hands-free cellphone use for bus drivers
  • A ban on handheld and hands-free cellphone use for novice drivers (under 18)
  • A ban on texting while driving for all drivers

California is 1 of 43 total states to institute a statewide ban on texting while driving for all drivers. In most cities, a texting while driving ticket is $159, a steep fine to discourage distracted driving. Unfortunately, cellphone use isn't the only type of distraction (albeit the most dangerous). Distraction laws can be tough to enforce, and there are no laws against things like using GPS navigation systems, changing the radio station, or eating while driving.

Cell Conversations Cause a Quarter of U.S. Auto Accidents

The dangers of distracted driving are well known. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), texting is considered the most dangerous form of driver distraction, as it commands a motorist's visual, manual, and cognitive attention simultaneously. According to a new study published earlier this week in the British Medical Journal, talking on a cellphone may be just as dangerous as texting.

McGill University researchers analyzed U.S. traffic crash reports and determined that as much as 25% of auto accidents in America are caused by drivers who talk on their phones while behind the wheel. Although many states throughout the country ban text messaging behind the wheel, not all of them ban the use of cell phones. In California, both text messaging and the use of cellphones while driving are illegal.

Because driver distraction is such a common cause of preventable car accidents, researchers believe that more needs to be done about educating drivers about the dangers of all forms of distraction.

Distracted Driving & Pedestrian Deaths

A recent study analyzed what it called the public health threat of distracted driving to a rise in pedestrian deaths. The increase in pedestrian deaths is dramatic. From 2005 to 2010, the number of bicyclists and pedestrians who were killed by distracted drivers rose 50%. Many of those distracted drivers were using cell phones to talk, text, or access the Internet. The study may not even capture the full scope of the problem as distracted driving is not always easily identified as the cause of a deadly motor vehicle accident.

The data used for the study came from the U.S. Fatality Analysis Reporting System. The system attributed 344 pedestrian deaths to distracted drivers in 2005. In 2010, that number had risen to 500. Bicyclist deaths attributed to distracted drivers rose from 56 to 73 in the same time period. The group most commonly associated with deadly distracted driving was white males in the 25 to 64 age range.

Legislators have attacked the problem of distracted driving by passing bans on texting behind the wheel. Some states have also taken the step of banning handheld cell phone use, though studies have shown that hand-free devices are no safer in terms of distraction. The laws have done little to stem the tide of distracted driving attributed to smart phones. The authors of the study cited the relative absence of stigma attached to cell phone use behind the wheel. Until the public feels the same way about a driver talking on a cell phone that they would feel about a driver drinking a beer behind the wheel, the prevalence of distracted driving is likely to continue.

Dangerous Driving Trend: Webbing Becomes More Common

Distracted driving is a major cause of deadly car accidents in California and a new study from State Farm Insurance is pointing to yet another hazardous distraction. With the dramatic proliferation of smart-phones among California drivers, many motorists have begun using their phones to surf the web behind the wheel.

This new study found that this practice, also known as "webbing," occurs much more often now than it did three years ago. According to this research, webbing is now even more common than texting while driving among some age categories. By surveying 1,000 California drivers between the ages of 18 and 29, the study found that 49 percent of these drivers admitted to webbing. This is a big surge from the most recent data from 2009. In that study, only 29 percent of the same category said that they used their phones to surf and drive.

Phone-related distractions put many Californians at risk.

In the time it takes for the average driver to send a text message, a car can travel the length of a football field at 55 mph. Other research has consistently shown that drivers are not very good at this kind of multitasking—some studies show a 50 percent reduction in accuracy from multitasking visual tasks like driving.

With numbers like these, it's easy to see how dangerous distracted driving can be. While texting and driving is often a criminal offense, it also figures into civil cases to show that one driver is responsible for the consequences of an accident. If a victim can show that the other driver was recklessly using a phone at the time of a crash, it is often easier to recover the compensation to which car crash victims are entitled.

The Dangers of Driving with Unsecured Pets

An increasing number of drivers travel with pets to the grocery store, to visit a friend, or on a long trip, but few restrain their pets, allowing the family dog to become a distraction to the driver. Pets that are allowed to roam around inside a moving car can lead to an auto accident. Drivers with unrestrained pets may take their eyes off the road and hands off the wheel to pet, play with or feed their dogs; a distracted driver is a dangerous driver.

Other problems with unsecured pets include the following:

  • Pets riding in a driver's lap can interfere with visibility or affect a driver's ability to react
  • Small dogs or cats can work their way under a brake pedal
  • Unsecured pets can bump the car's gear shift and throw a driver into neutral

Harnesses and travel crates are available for pets of all sizes. Automobile manufacturers have even begun offering pet packages to encourage drivers to secure pets while traveling. There is simply no reason that an unsecured pet should be allowed to cause or contribute to a motor vehicle accident.

Injured? Contact a San Diego Car Accident Lawyer!

We at The McClellan Law Firm want to do our part by raising awareness about the dangers of distracted driving, but when these types of accidents do happen, we are here to represent victims. If this describes something that happened to you or a loved one, contact a San Diego car accident attorney at our firm. You won't pay unless we win your case and initial consultations are free of charge. Call (619) 215-1488 to learn more.

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