Distracted driving is any activity that diverts attention from driving, including talking or texting on your phone, eating and drinking, talking to people in your vehicle, adjusting the stereo, entertainment or navigation system—anything that takes your attention away from the task of safe driving. The National Highway Traffic Safety Association (NHTSA) reported that, in 2015, an estimated 2,443,000 people were injured in motor vehicle traffic crashes. The number of people injured in distraction-affected crashes in 2015 was estimated at 391,000 (16% of all the injured people).
Cell phone usage and texting are two of the most prevalent forms of distracted driving and are likely the most dangerous. Many of the new injury cases coming in to Linnen Co., L.P.A. are as a result of driver cell phone usage. The NHTSA estimates that 30,000 people were injured in 2015 in crashes involving cell phone use or other cell-phone-related activities (8% of all people injured in distraction-affected crashes). Distracted driving from cell phone usage is likely very under reported because it requires self-reporting or eye witness accounts. Such information rarely finds its way to the crash report.
Sending or reading a text that takes your eyes off the road for 4 seconds at 55 mph (80.66 feet per second) is like driving the length of an entire football field with your eyes closed. According to the NHTSA, there are similarities between impairment associated with drunk driving and texting while driving. Both cause impaired driving that can result in following too closely, not being able to brake on time or weaving into oncoming traffic.
Any non-driving activity is a potential distraction and increases the risk of a crash, but cell phone usage can be especially dangerous. Cell phone records are routinely subpoenaed in a personal injury lawsuit and most carriers have adopted a specific process for providing cell phone records in response to a subpoena.
A recent case demonstrated impaired driving as a result of cell phone usage. A client of Linnen Co. L.P. A. came upon a motorist who was driving erratically and appeared to be looking down as she almost collided with a bridge support. The client’s immediate thought was to distance herself from this driver who was obviously texting or looking at her phone. After having distanced herself from this reckless driver the client was unfortunately required to come to a complete stop in a construction zone and the same erratic driver from down the road ran into the back of her vehicle.
Operators of motor vehicles using cell phones can be held accountable for punitive damages if such conduct reaches the level of recklessness. At Linnen Co., L.P.A. cell phone related crashes are aggressively pursued and handled the same way as with a driver impaired by alcohol. If you or a loved one has been injured, learn more about what we do for our clients in auto accident cases.