Distracted driving is a huge problem on roadways across the world. Thanks to the digital revolution, more gadgets are stealing precious attention than ever before. There have been several laws put into place to help reduce the dangers of distracted driving – but unfortunately, around 3,000 people die every year in accidents involving a distracted driver.
As motorists, we can only control what WE do on the road – and we need to be aware of how our actions behind the wheel put others in danger. In this post, we discuss everything about distracted driving and how to keep yourself in check to avoid potential consequences.
Let’s get into it.
What is Distracted Driving?
Distracted driving may sound like an ambiguous term, but it’s pretty straightforward. Distracted driving involves anything that takes your focus away from controlling your vehicle. Car accidents can happen in the blink of an eye. Even a split second of taking your eyes off the road can lead to severe consequences.
Distracted driving crashes can cause serious injuries, ruin lives, and compromise financial standings. Every motorist must make it a point to be cautious on the road and not let their attention deviate.
What are Some Distractions While Driving?
Some of the most common driving distractions include (but are not limited to):
Texting and driving
Cell phones do so much more than they did just 10-15 years ago. While it’s commonly referred to as “texting and driving” – smartphone use now involves emailing, checking social media, etc. Phone usage is the culprit behind one in four distracted driving crashes in the United States.
Programming your GPS is just as distracting (and dangerous) as texting and driving. Even glancing down at your GPS for a split second can lead to chaos. It’s recommended to have a mount for your phone to avoid taking your eyes off the road. Additionally, be sure to program your directions while you’re still parked.
Having a quick meal in the car can be much more dangerous than many assume. If you get drive-thru, avoid eating until you get to a stopping point.
External distractions refer to anything going on outside the vehicle that take your eyes off the road. This could involve waving to a pedestrian, trying to read a sign, examining a sight on a scenic route, etc. To avoid these dangers of distracted driving, do your best to keep your attention on the road, especially if it’s busy.
Interacting with passengers
Talking, laughing, and looking at passengers in your car can be a huge distraction – especially for younger drivers. This is why many states have passenger restrictions for new drivers.
Dealing with pets/children
Anyone who has pets and children knows how distracting they can be – even when they’re not in a vehicle. For pets that get restless during car rides, it’s recommended to keep them constrained in the backseat. When it comes to children, make sure they are properly buckled in and give them snacks and toys to stay occupied.
Adjusting audio controls
Adjusting the radio station, song, or volume may seem like a small distraction, but you only need to take your eyes off the road once to cause an accident. Fortunately, most newer vehicles have controls on the steering wheel to reduce these driving distractions.
Mornings on workdays are always stressful. Sometimes you might not have the time to apply a face of makeup before dashing out the door. Keep in mind, the car is no place to put on mascara, lipstick, blush, or anything else – at least while you’re driving. If you’re in a pinch, wait until the car is parked to apply makeup.
We all zone out from time to time. Doing so while behind the wheel is one of the biggest dangers of distracted driving. According to an NHTSA report, spacing out accounts for more than 60 percent of car accidents. Do your best to get enough sleep and stay alert on the road.
We all have rough days at work and feel down once in a while. Driving angry, confused, sad, etc. can lead to distracted driving on the road. If your emotions are running high, try not to get behind the wheel. Take some deep breaths and get to a good spot mentally before taking to the roadways.
When most of us hear the term “distracted driving”, we think of texting and driving, fiddling with the GPS, radio, or other electronic devices. While these are certainly a big part of it, distractions on the road are practically endless.
What are the Three Main Categories of Distracted Driving?
“Distracted driving” is a broad term used to describe anything that diverts your attention off the road. To get more granular, this term is generally classified into three different categories:
Visual distractions are anything that takes your eyes off the road – external distractions, interacting with passengers, and so on.
Manual distractions are anything that takes your hands off the steering wheel – eating, dealing with pets/children, applying makeup, etc.
Cognitive distractions refer to anything that takes your mind off of driving – daydreaming, emotions, etc.
Is Distracted Driving a Criminal Offense?
Distracted driving by itself is not technically a criminal defense – but some forms may result in a ticket.
Most states have implemented laws against smartphone use while driving. The state of Illinois prohibits the use of hand-held communication devices while driving a motor vehicle. The only times Illinois motorists are permitted to use their smartphones while in their vehicle include:
- To report an emergency.
- While parked on the side of the road.
- While stopped due to obstructions in normal traffic – and the vehicle is in park or neutral.
Citations for smartphone use while driving increase based on the number of offenses.
- First: $75
- Second: $100
- Third: $125
Now, if distracted driving causes an injury to another person and their property, it may impose a criminal offense and civil liability case. This will depend on the circumstances and legal proceedings, which we’ll discuss later.
How to Avoid Distracted Driving?
There are many, many dangers of distracted driving. As a motorist, you have a duty to protect other drivers on the road. There are many things you can do to help keep yourself and other drivers safe on the road.
Here are some of the best distracted driving safety tips to keep in mind:
- Don’t use smartphones while driving – for any reason. Texts and calls can wait.
- Set your GPS beforeyou start driving. If you have to change it, pull over and park.
- Secure anything in your vehicle that could roll around while driving.
- Prepare for the day at home (apply makeup, comb hair, get fully dressed) before you leave. If you’re tight on time, wait until you’re parked to finish getting ready. Getting to your destination a little late is always better than not getting there at all.
- Do your best to eat before you get on the road. If you haveto eat while driving, choose something that’s not messy.
- If you have to handle an urgent situation, pull over to the side of the road.
- Secure pets and kids in the backseat. If they need some attention, pull over first.
- Try not to drive angry or emotional.
Preventing the dangers of distracted driving is a group effort involving all motorists. The legal space has very little leniency for accidents caused by distracted driving.
What to do If You’ve Been in a Distracted Driving Accident?
If you’ve been involved in an accident stemming from distracted driving, you have options.
Distracted driving crashes are handled the same way as any other car accident. The trick here is proving the at-fault driver was distracted. Believe it or not, it’s not as difficult as it might sound.
For one, if the driver admits to being distracted (which happens more often than you might think), the case could easily go in your favor.
If you suspect distracted driving, let the police know immediately. Say you saw the driver take their eyes off the road before the collision. Mentioning this to the officer will mean it’s included in the official report. Witnesses may also confirm this.
Smartphone usage is the leading cause of distracted car crashes. Fortunately, phone records can easily verify if the at-fault driver was using their phone at the time of the accident. Traffic cameras can also be used to do this.
Regardless of the circumstances, the most important step in earning compensation after a distracted driving incident is to hire a specialized car accident attorney. They will help you file a personal injury claim and recoup all your losses – and then some.
Over to You
The dangers of distracted driving cannot be understated. As time goes on, there will be more distractions at our fingertips. It’s vital that we, as motorists, are aware of these dangers and do everything possible to keep ourselves and other drivers safe.
For more information about distracted driving law in Illinois and Indiana – or personal injury as a whole – get in touch with Midwest Injury Lawyers today. We’re always happy to answer questions and guide you in the right direction.