Nearly all of us at some point will have been distracted behind the wheel; whether it’s a phone going off, a passenger pointing out something, or simply trying to switch radio stations. Whilst being distracted for a moment may not cause an accident, many drivers are not so lucky. In the US alone, over 400,000 people were involved in an accident caused by distracted drivers according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention which is an alarmingly high number. This also tragically means distracted driving accidents have claimed over 3,500 lives on average, in the US each year.
As experienced accident attorneys, we’ve represented many distracted drivers and victims of distracted driving accidents over the years, and every case we work on is unique. If you’ve been involved in an accident involving a distracted driver or want to understand what your legal rights are, our article explores what being distracted means in terms of the law and what the penalties are for being found guilty.
Distracted Driving Statistics
It may not come as a surprise to learn that distracted driving accidents have steadily increased over the last 10 years, in correlation with smartphone use. In fact, according to research conducted by The Zebra, the pressure to respond to a text message or email has increased significantly among younger drivers with 28.6% of those surveyed admitting they had emailed or replied to a message whilst driving.
Tragically, 5% of distracted driving accidents end in fatalities, with 8% of the age group between 15-19 involved in fatal accidents caused by being distracted. Sadly, this age group has the highest recorded fatalities when it comes to distracted driving stats. And it would seem it isn’t just an age thing, with stats indicating that in 2017 alone, 69% of all drivers involved in a distracted driving accident were male.
What Is Distracted Driving
In the eyes of the law, there are three main categories of distracted driving; visual, manual, and cognitive.
- A visual distraction can be anything from a passenger trying to get a drivers’ attention, pointing something out, to rubber-necking an incident outside, or even watching videos on their phones.
- A manual distraction is anything that takes away a drivers’ physical attention or capability to hold the wheel with both hands such as using a phone, eating and drinking, or even a passenger moving around.
- A cognitive distraction is something that causes the driver to lose concentration at the wheel, whether it’s being tired and momentarily drifting off, singing out loud to music, or even a passenger diverting attention from the road.
If caught, all distracted drivers face some kind of punishment in the eyes of the law but the severity of the punishment will take into consideration if an accident was caused, the experience of the driver, and what was distracting them.
Distracted Driving Laws
Depending on which state a distracted driver is caught in will depend on how the law will decide on a consequence. For example, in some states such as Alabama, there isn’t currently a hand-held ban on cell phones whilst driving, but in Arizona there is. This means the law will handle your distracted driving accident case differently here in Arizona, as our law has a ban on holding a cell phone when driving.
There are also fines of up to $500 for drivers found guilty of being distracted whilst driving can be handed out across the US as punishment. Ultimately, the law has had to update and refine the way it considers distraction for drivers in a modern world where smartphones and other devices continue to demand our attention.
If you or a loved one has been involved in a distracted driving accident and want a free, no-obligation consultation, speak to one of our attorneys today. We’re always happy to take your call.