When a person gets into the driver’s seat, they have a responsibility to keep their full attention on the road. Being distracted for just a few seconds is all it takes for a driver to hit another vehicle, a pedestrian, a motorcyclist, or a bicyclist. It doesn’t matter how long you’ve been driving for — there’s no level of experience that makes drivers capable of safely maintaining control of their car while their eyes and mind are away from the road or when their hands are off the steering wheel. According to the NHTSA, 2,841 people were killed in distracted driving accidents in 2018.
Using a cell phone while driving has become synonymous with distracted driving, but it’s not the only way distracted driving accidents occur. There are three main types of distracted driving. Visual distractions are things that take a driver’s eyes away from the road, cognitive distractions take a driver’s attention away from the road, and manual distractions force drivers to take at least one hand off the steering wheel. Here are some of the most common causes of distracted driving accidents:
Getting Lost in Thought
Everyone has things going on in their lives and sometimes, it’s not always easy to mentally set those things aside while driving. Maybe someone just got some upsetting news or they’re thinking about all the things they need to do when they get home. Or maybe they’ve driven a route so many times that they zone out and start thinking about other things than their surroundings. Getting lost in thought is something that can happen to anybody, but that doesn’t make it less dangerous. It’s still enough to make it possible for a driver to overlook something important on the road ahead of them.
Cell Phone Use
Using a cell phone, whether it’s to answer a call or to read/respond to a text message, is considered one of the most dangerous types of distracted driving. While getting lost in thought is considered a cognitive distraction, using a cell phone can be a cognitive, manual, and visual distraction. Even if you’re using a hands-free setup, trying to interact with your phone while driving can still be very distracting.
In the state of California, drivers are prohibited from using their cell phones in any way while driving, unless the phone is in hands-free mode, if they’re trying to contact emergency services, or if they’re on private property. If a phone is being used for directions, the phone needs to be mounted on the center console or dashboard of a car and drivers are only allowed to make changes that can be done with one swipe/tap of their device. California drivers under the age of 18 are completely banned from using a cell phone while driving, even if it’s in hands-free mode, unless it’s an emergency.
When people are driving through areas they aren’t familiar with, GPS can feel like a necessity. But if you’re going to use a GPS system to help you reach your destination, it’s very important to make sure it’s set up correctly before you start driving. It’s estimated that programming a navigation system takes approximately 40 seconds, so imagine how much you could miss by taking your eyes and attention away from the road for such a long time. If you need to make changes to a navigation system after you’ve started driving, find a safe place to stop while you set up a new route.
Other Passengers/Occupants in Your Car
It’s not always possible to drive by yourself, but if other people are in your car, interacting with them can potentially be a distraction. This is precisely why many states, including California, have laws that prohibit newly licensed teen drivers from driving with other passengers unless accompanied by a parent or guardian. Not only can conversations with other passengers be distracting for a driver, other types of passenger behavior can potentially cause drivers to take their attention off the road. If you’re driving with a pet in the car, make sure they are secured so that they won’t be able to move around and cause a distraction while you try to drive.
Eating/Drinking While Driving
When you lead a busy life, it can feel like you don’t have much time to eat. But eating while driving just isn’t worth the extra risk of getting into a car accident. Eating or drinking while driving is a prime example of a manual distraction. Every time you reach for your bottle of water or to pick up a sandwich, a hand needs to be taken off the wheel, creating another opportunity for a driver to lose control of their car.
Reaching for Items
When cars are in motion, things don’t always stay where they’re supposed to be. Purses can tip over or a phone being used to get directions might fall out of a cup holder while making a turn. Or maybe a child in the back seat drops their favorite toy. When these sorts of things happen, people often instinctively want to reach to pick them up again. But trying to reach for things while driving can potentially lead to a serious car accident. Not only does it force drivers to take a hand off the steering wheel, it forces drivers to take their eyes off the road.
Help With California Distracted Driving Accident Claims
The sad reality about distracted driving accidents is that 100% of them are preventable. When drivers just can’t resist answering a text message or reaching for an object that fell while driving, it can easily mean tragedy for an innocent bystander. If you’ve been injured in an accident with a distracted driver, you need an experienced attorney on your side.
At The Wallace Firm, you’ll be able to get the help of a California distracted driving accident lawyer who knows the law and isn’t afraid to fight for what’s best for you. At-fault drivers can try to avoid responsibility and insurance companies will try to get you to settle for less. But we’ll fight for you to get all of the compensation you need, including any long-term medical expenses that might need to be covered. Contact us today for help with your case.