Driving while distracted causes hundreds of thousands of accidents annually and results in thousands of fatalities.
All of us are guilty of occasionally letting our attention wander while behind the wheel. We may have glanced at a billboard for a bit too long, thought about our to-do list, jerked our head around to check on a crying child or tried to grab a quick bite during a hectic commute.
Something we don’t think about is that it only takes a moment of distraction for a tragic car accident to occur. In that split second we look away from the road, the car in front could slam on its brakes, a pedestrian could step into a crosswalk or the semi driving alongside could have a tire blowout. All these could easily be avoided if we are alert enough to take evasive maneuvers in a timely manner, but can end in tragedy if our attention is elsewhere.
Broadening the scope of “distracted driving”
When most people hear the phrase “distracted driving,” they immediately think of such high-tech distractions as cellphones, text messaging, emailing, checking a GPS unit, queuing up a playlist or updating social media. These new-fangled gadgets aren’t the only things keeping drivers from focusing on the road, though.
Something as innocuous as eating a sandwich or putting on a coat of lipstick behind the wheel can be just as distracting as sending a text message. The key difference between electronic distractions and others is that lawmakers across the country have acted to lessen the impact of technological distractions like phones and texting.
While some states still allow the use of handheld cellphones, New York has banned them for all drivers. In addition, the state has made text messaging behind the wheel a primary offense, meaning that a driver can be pulled over if a law enforcement officer witnesses them texting without the need for an additional violation like speeding or failing to use turn signals (see New York Vehicle and Traffic Law § 1225-d for more information).
With many states taking the same position as New York and banning the use of handheld electronic devices while driving, the development and distribution of hands-free technologies has skyrocketed in recent years. Logically, it seems that using voice-activated devices to “read” or compose text messages would be less dangerous than doing the same on a handheld device. After all, the user’s hands remain on the wheel and his (or her) eyes stay focused straight ahead. Surprisingly, according to the results of several scientific studies, this simply isn’t the case.
Research performed at renowned institutions around the country – like the Texas A & M Transportation Institute and the University of Utah – has consistently shown that hands-free emailing or texting while driving is just as dangerous due to the level of “cognitive distraction” necessary. Doing something as interactive as texting or composing emails is so all-encompassing for your brain, as is the act of driving a car, it doesn’t matter if your hands and eyes are engaged or not; humans simply don’t have enough brain power to perform several detail-oriented tasks at once. It isn’t just you, though, so don’t feel bad: nobody does.
If you or a loved one has been injured in an accident caused by a distracted driver, you have legal rights. You may be able to seek compensation for your injuries, so speak with an experienced personal injury attorney to learn more.
Keywords: Distracted Driving, Motor Vehicle Accidents, Fatal Car Accidents