A distracted driving accident can happen for the following reasons:
- Hundreds of thousands of billboards line streets and highways across the United States.
- The average American checks his/her phone nearly one hundred times a day.
- The use of Bluetooth music entertainment in the car has skyrocketed.
From 2018 to 2019, the number of deaths from distracted driving accidents increased by almost 10%.
Many states have passed laws to try and penalize the use of phones while driving. However, many of these laws are not preventative. Enforcing them is difficult, as well. It is hard to tell when drivers are not paying attention to the road. That is why the aftermath of distraction-related accidents can be tricky to navigate—determining fault isn’t always clear-cut.
Types of Distractions
Overall, there are three main types of distractions. They deal with vision, touch, and mental awareness. It is important to remember that anyone can get sidetracked while driving. People like to think of themselves as the exception, but research shows that most people are inefficient at multitasking.
Oftentimes, drivers take their eyes off the road and cause an accident.
A powerful example from Rural Mutual Insurance Company demonstrates how dangerous this can be. It explains that a driver going 65mph would travel the length of a football field (and then some) if he took his eyes off the road for two seconds. This does not even include other factors like:
- How old is the car?
- How much experience does the driver have?
- Is the car well-maintained?
- Are there distractions inside the car (noises, children, etc.)?
- What type of terrain/road is the person driving on?
- How fast is the car going?
- How much does the car weigh? (Heavier car = longer time to stop)
There are many reasons why drivers lose visual contact with the road. Some of the most common reasons include:
- Looking at a phone
- Reading directions
- Dropping something on the car floor
- Watching other cars and/or pedestrians
- Trying to read street signs
- Looking at passengers in the car
These milliseconds of distraction can quickly drag out into full seconds. Once your eyes have been off the road long enough, you can drift into other lanes, rear-end people in front of you, or hit a pedestrian (just to name a few).
Another type of distraction is touch—or taking your hands off the wheel. Like those in the vision category, these interruptions are momentary but make a significant impact. Losing grip of the steering control can be even more devastating in certain areas. If you are on a relatively empty highway or road, you may have time to course correct. When there is heavier traffic or you are in an area with very little to no shoulder (EX. residential streets), this can take you off the road completely.
Here are many reasons why people take their hands off the wheel:
- Opening food packages and/or eating
- Changing music
- Texting on the phone
- Pouring drinks
- Looking for something
- Applying makeup
- Fighting with passengers
- Looking up directions
Unfortunately, these multitasking actions are quite common while driving. Most drivers are overly confident about their ability to adjust the vehicle in a moment of panic. This leads to rollovers, head-on collisions, and vehicles veering completely off the road into ditches, signs, buildings, etc.
The last major type of interruption is mental—or losing focus of the process of driving. In this scenario, you could have both hands on the wheel and both eyes on the road and still cause an accident. This happens often when people drive while emotional. Examples of this include:
- Thinking about work
- Worrying about personal problems
- Trying to remember something
- Talking on the phone
- Zoning out
- Being rushed
The scary part about mental distractions is that it can lead you to lose sight and touch, too. These interruptions often cause people to drift from one lane to another. Also, they can cause accidents in parking lots or driveways when the driver is not paying attention to their surroundings.
What Happens After a Distracted Driving Accident?
A distracted driving accident happens in the blink of an eye, but the aftermath can last for a lifetime. When the cause of the accident is clear (i.e. texting while driving), the responsible party is liable to pay damages. This is because the act of texting breaches a driver’s legal obligation to avoid causing harm to others. In this case, the at-fault driver’s insurance company would cover both physical and property damages to the affected party.
The exception to this is no-fault insurance states. These include:
- Puerto Rico
- New York
- North Dakota
- New Jersey
If you get into an accident in these states, you will receive damages from your own insurance company. If the damages you receive do not cover the full cost of your medical bills or car repairs, you can seek legal action against the driver at fault.
After the initial accident, you want to make sure you take pictures of the damage. This includes both injuries and your vehicle (if possible). During the police investigation, be honest about what happened. If you are not sure what happened, say that.
If the other driver said anything about being distracted, speak up. All the information from the police report will be part of any legal proceedings following the accident. In the days, weeks, and months after the incident, keep a record of any related expenses. You should also keep a record of your injuries.
Finally, if you decide to file a lawsuit against the other driver, you should hire an experienced California car accident attorney. Having professional help will ensure that all the pieces of your case are filed correctly and efficiently. An attorney may also be able to secure damages from other sources, as well.
If you live in California, contact our team at James McKiernan Lawyers. We are based in San Luis Obispo County and have helped our clients win millions of dollars in damages related to all sorts of accidents. Call us at (805) 222-7654 or contact us online to schedule your free consultation today and to get help with a distracted driving accident.