The CDC estimates 9 Americans lose their lives every day in distracted driving accidents. In Philadelphia, experts refer to distracted driving as a significant public health problem in the US. Distracted drivers should be held accountable for their careless actions. Fortunately, Pennsylvania tort laws allow victims of auto accidents to recover from any party who acted in a negligent manner to cause their injuries.
In your vehicle, you have many of the same freedoms you would have if you were sitting in your living room at home. Smartphones give us the luxury of accessing the internet, talking to others on the phone, and watching movies or playing games. We have navigation apps, social media, and staying connected with family and friends to keep us occupied during long, boring car trips.
But a motor vehicle requires a lot of attention. Cars weigh thousands of pounds and travel at high speeds over various terrain. Being distracted for any period can turn any trip in the car into a disaster. But how many auto accidents are caused by distracted drivers? The answer might surprise you. Learn more about distracting driving accidents from our experienced car accident lawyers.
What Is Distracted Driving?
Distracted driving is technically any time you are not in complete control of your motor vehicle due to being distracted by something else. It could be anything from eating, changing the station on your radio, reaching for something that has fallen onto the floorboards, digging around for a pair of sunglasses, or, more commonly, using a mobile phone. Sometimes drivers are distracted when they are passing by the scene of an accident or focusing on a police car, ambulance, or fire truck responding to a call.
Over the years, mobile devices have become a large contributor to distracted driving accidents. According to a recent United States Department of Transportation study, 3,142 people lost their lives in one year due to distracted driving.
Here are some ways people are distracted by their mobile devices:
- Watching videos
- Taking selfies
- Talking on mobile phones
- Scrolling social media
Who Is At Risk for Distracted Driving?
Nearly anyone who allows themselves to be distracted while driving is at risk of being involved in an auto accident. Not just limited to teens or inexperienced drivers; many people find themselves in an awful situation by letting themselves become distracted.
After all, it only takes a moment for poor decision-making to change your life forever.
- Teens and young drivers: Social connections and a fear of missing out can glue teens to their phones. They might also be more interested in what is going on with other passengers than focusing their attention on the road. Living by example, setting good boundaries, and putting rules into place that limit screen time and other distractions can help.
- Adults: When you are trying to stay on top of a hectic work schedule, coordinate meetings with teachers, or use the time you have in the car to take care of things that you need to check off your to-do list, you can easily become distracted.
- The elderly: Despite many years of experience, older drivers might become distracted by details that could result in some dire results. As we get older, our reflexes slow down, and sometimes our response times do not allow us the edge we once had. Combined with being distracted by conversations in the car, new technology, and even changes in the layout of once-familiar cities, the elderly still have to be vigilant against distraction.
- Professionals: From men and women working in the trades to delivery drivers and other workers who rely on their phones for constant communication due to work, distractions are an occupational hazard. Bus drivers, truck drivers, and other professionals need to be aware of the dangers of distracted driving. If a driver knows they must turn their attention from the road at any given time, they must not put other people at risk. They should get off the road.
- Law enforcement and first responders: The inside of a modern-day EMS vehicle looks like a command center for a superhero. With laptops, tablets, radios, and other communication gear keeping them in contact with dispatch and other operators, even first responders can become distracted and find themselves involved in an accident.
- Everyone else: Even if you are not the one driving, distracted drivers pose a risk to you. This includes other drivers and their passengers who might end up in an accident due to another distracted driver. Pedestrians could have avoided an injury if only a driver had been paying attention. The consequences of distracted driving have a ripple effect when it comes to whomever else could be injured.
Minimizing the Occurrence of Distracted Driving
According to the research, distracted driving has declined from earlier years but began to rise again more recently.
Governments and organizations have attempted to curtail distracted driving. For example, the state of Oregon has passed laws that incur large fines and penalties for using mobile phones while driving. Other states have followed suit, but police might find these measures difficult to enforce.
Mobile phone carriers have tried over the years to supply earbuds and other devices to allow users to talk hands-free on their phones. However, this does little when it comes to other serious contributing factors, such as texting and driving, watching videos, and using the smartphone’s camera.
Some smartphones have settings that prevent these when driving and will ask for confirmation whether the driver or a passenger is operating the phone. Not long ago, distracted driving might have been due to a stereo system, dealing with pets or children in the car, or even eating while driving. Nowadays, distracted driving is nearly synonymous with using a mobile device.
How Many Accidents Does Distracted Driving Cause?
Each year, distracted driving causes thousands of accidents nationwide. Fatalities due to distracted driving over the last ten years have averaged nearly 3,000 deaths annually.
But the math is not so simple. Many accidents are unreported or unmeasurable since you might not find the distracted driver that cut you off and caused an accident, or worse still, they might not even realize they caused an accident. Still, other accidents might result from distracted driving, but the reports reflect it as another type of accident.
Car and Drivers have reported that texting and driving are several times more dangerous than drunk driving. The attention required in using mobile devices can reduce reaction times in much the same way as being intoxicated. We can attribute the number of accidents to the access a wider range of people has to mobile devices, as opposed to those who would attempt to drive while intoxicated.
Since mobile devices are relatively new, there is not quite the stigma of texting and driving associated with accidents as there has been with driving under the influence. Penalties are also not yet as severe as drunk driving for distracted drivers.
Types of Serious Injuries Attributed to Distracted Driving
Distracted driving accidents are hazardous because those involved in these accidents operate motor vehicles, often at highway speeds. Because they are distracted, they are not expecting any hazards or complications to their predicted path and might not even slow down before a collision.
On the highway especially, drivers in low-profile vehicles such as small cars, motorcycles, pedestrians, and bicyclists are especially vulnerable since they are already difficult to see without distractions.
The higher the speeds involved in a collision, the more significant damage to vehicles and their occupants. Distracted drivers might veer off the road and injure just themselves. Still, more often than not, they collide with other drivers, sometimes crossing into oncoming traffic, sideswiping other vehicles, and even running through intersections against the light.
Losses Due to Distracted Driving
Due to high speeds, not attempting to maneuver to reduce damage, or other factors, the damage is significant when collisions with distracted drivers happen.
Here are some ways that distracted driver auto accidents can affect the lives of others.
- Loss of property or need for repairs. Vehicles are often severely damaged or in total losses because of the intensity of a distracted driving accident.
- Hospitalization. Being involved in an auto accident can often result in hospitalization. Traumatic brain injuries, cuts and internal bleeding, broken bones, burns, and blood loss can lead to surgeries, and extended hospital stays.
- Lost time at work. While recuperating in the hospital, you might be unable to work until recovery allows you to perform your assigned tasks. This will impact your income, not only for the present but future earnings. An attorney can help you get compensation for the effect lost time at work will have on your livelihood.
- Financial impact. Medical bills, lost time at work, the added strain of replacing a vehicle, and several other factors will drain your finances. The insurer of the at-fault party will likely try to lowball you on your settlement. Hiring an attorney generally yields significantly higher payments than taking the initial offer from an insurance company.
- Disability or dismemberment. Loss of a limb, your eyesight, or cognitive damage can mean living with a permanent disability for the rest of your life. Along with those challenges comes the expense of medical equipment, prosthetics, wheelchairs, and disability access infrastructure you will need for your home. You might even have to change vocations or live on permanent disability assistance for the rest of your life. An attorney can get you the compensation you need to preserve your quality of life despite these changes.
- Rehabilitation. Many survivors of serious collisions need to undergo physical rehabilitation to get their muscles and bones back into working condition, especially after surgery. Some injuries might require cognitive rehabilitation, as traumatic brain injuries can impact short and long-term memory, motor skills, and basic understanding that was once normal. Rehabilitation is expensive and often painful, and many insurers cover only a limited amount, leaving you with major expenses.
- Pain and suffering. We cannot measure some injuries in damages. Pain and suffering account for what a survivor has endured and must live with for the rest of their lives. This might be managing physical pain or post-traumatic stress caused by the collision.
- Death. Living with the aftermath of the death of a loved one will often saddle their surviving family with debts, loss of income, and funeral expenses, as well as the emotional presence they once occupied in their family.
How a Lawyer Can Help You?
An attorney takes the information available through first responder reports, as well as information you might have gathered from the scene of the accident. They can use this information in settlement negotiations with insurance companies to get higher settlements. Most personal injury cases do not go before a judge, and concerned parties settle them out of court, but the amount owed for damages needs to be enough to cover the losses suffered by the victim of the accident.
Most insurance companies will try to get out of paying anything but the lowest amounts to save money. Your attorney can gather information about the accident, track your expenses as they come in, meet deadlines and navigate the legal system to fight for your rights. Contacting an attorney can give you a significant edge in these proceedings and in securing a settlement.
If you have sustained injuries in an accident with a distracted driver, they need to compensate you for your losses. Hiring an attorney can take a lot of stress off your shoulders in what already seems like an impossible situation.
As you recover, you need to have an ally and someone who will advocate for you in this difficult time. Your car accident attorney will allow you the peace of mind you need to heal and start a plan to take on the challenges of the rest of your life. Even though a split second of negligence put you in this situation, having an attorney is approaching a difficult situation with a clear head and the resources you need to get through it.