The facts speak for themselves. Distracted drivers are quickly outpacing drunk drivers as the most lethal hazard on the road today. Even worse, younger drivers are far more likely to be involved in fatal crashes as a result of distraction. According to the NHTSA, distracted drivers in their 20s account for 27% of all fatal crashes. Combined with the fact that 25% of teens respond to at least one text message every time they drive, the message is clear. Distraction is no longer just a problem. It is an epidemic.
Every year, nearly half a million people are injured in traffic incidents involving distracted drivers, and over 3,000 people are killed. At any given second, there are 660,000 Americans using their cellphones while driving. Even as new technologies arise to make other technologies less distracting, the numbers continue to hold. Headset technology and other hands-free approaches have made little to no impact on driving safety.
But what exactly is causing these distractions, and how can drivers defend against distraction? Distraction comes in many forms. Drivers can be mentally distracted, meaning that they are consumed by other thoughts and not focused on the task at hand. Drivers can also be physically distracted, taking their hands off the wheel to attend to some other activity, such as adjusting vehicle settings or pressing buttons on one device or another. Lastly, drivers can be visually distracted, taking their eyes off the road for extended periods to look at instruments or scenery or technology.
Some activities, like talking on a cellphone, can be distracting on multiple levels. The driver is thinking about the content of the conversation, possibly holding a phone by hand, and looking at the phone at least during certain parts of the call. Taken together, devices like smartphones can be an irresistible temptation to bored drivers, and the outcome is a recipe for disaster, as the numbers have shown.
But is there a way to protect yourself from distracted drivers? The best advice is to stay focused. Two distracted drivers are much more likely to get into a wreck than one alone. Put your cellphone away somewhere that you cannot get to it. Pay attention to what’s going on, keep your hands on the wheel, and attend to any necessary calls or texts before setting out or by pulling over. Before responding to a message or a call, ask yourself if the message to which you are responding is worth your life or someone else’s.
Keep an eye on other drivers. Distracted drivers are sometimes obvious. If you see a driver holding a phone, keep your distance. Notice if another driver is riding the brakes or veering across the line. Just like drunk drivers, distracted drivers do often exhibit warning signs, and being aware of these signs could mean the difference between life and death.
But, if the worst happens, and a distracted driver hits you, what should you do? Well, to begin, you should do what you would do in the event of any wreck. For a full explanation of what to do following a wreck, check out our Wreck Checklist. After the initial steps are made, it’s time to call a lawyer. Bailey & Oliver has deep experience with all aspects of traffic injury. If you are the victim of another driver’s distraction, Bailey & Oliver can help you hold the right party accountable. Call us today for a free consultation. Bailey & Oliver Law Firm (479) 202-5200.