Common Causes of Distracted Driving Accidents
Too often, people in Texas and across the country multi-task when they are behind the wheel. They should be solely focused on keeping a reasonable distance from the car in front, paying attention to traffic signals and maintaining a safe speed. Instead, they easily allow themselves to become distracted by things like texting, talking on a phone or interacting with other people or pets in the car. It’s highly dangerous behavior. Frequently, it leads to serious car accidents.
Here, we take a closer look at the problem of distracted driving in Texas, including the most common causes of distracted driving crashes in our state. If you were involved in an auto accident with a suspected distracted driver, contact an experienced accident attorney today to discuss the specific facts of your case. As one of the largest law firms in Texas, we have the experience and resources that it takes to pursue maximum compensation for you.
What Is Distracted Driving?
Simply put, distracted driving occurs when a driver allows any type of distraction to interfere with what should be the driver’s main task: Driving safely. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says that these distractions fall into three categories:
- Visual – Taking your eyes off the road.
- Manual – Taking your hands off the steering wheel.
- Cognitive – Taking your attention off driving.
Drivers of all ages can become distracted while driving. However, statistics and research show that it is especially a problem among younger, less experienced drivers. For instance, a landmark study by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety and University of Iowa researchers found that distraction played a role in 58 percent of moderate-to-severe crashes involving teen drivers, including 89 percent of road-departure accidents and 76 percent of rear-end collisions.
Texting or Talking on a Phone
Texting and driving and talking on a cell phone are among the leading causes of distracted driving accidents. They are highly dangerous activities. For instance, in the AAA study, researchers found that teens who were “manipulating their cell phone” had their eyes off the road, on average, for 4.1 of the last six seconds before impact in a crash. Additionally, more than half the teens who were using a phone before a rear-end crash failed to brake, swerve or otherwise react before the collision happened.
A driver who texts or talks on a phone often is distracted visually, manually and cognitively. As research shows, even talking on a hands-free device can be dangerous. This is because the driver clearly is not giving his or her full attention to the road and controls of the vehicle.
Fortunately, state and local laws largely prohibit this conduct. Since 2017, Texas has banned all drivers statewide from texting while driving. Restrictions also apply to teen drivers, drivers going through school zones and school bus drivers who are transporting children. Additionally, more than 90 cities have enacted laws which, in some cases, have tighter restrictions. For example, since 2015, a San Antonio ordinance has banned drivers of all ages from any use of hand-held phones.
Other Types of Distracted Driving Accidents
Unfortunately, using an electronic device to text or talk is not the only cause of distracted driving accidents. Drivers can become distracted in many other ways, including:
- Reaching for something inside the vehicle – Drivers take their hands off the wheel and eyes off the road if they bend over or reach for an object in the car. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration actually bans truck drivers from using hand-held phones if they need to reach for one.
- Playing with controls – Punching in an address on a GPS device, adjusting the air conditioning or changing the station on the radio can easily take a driver’s attention off traffic.
- Interacting with pets or passengers – In the AAA study of teen drivers, this was actually the leading cause of distracted driving crashes. The risk of a crash also increases if a driver has to control a pet in the vehicle.
- Looking at something outside of the vehicle – Many drivers cause accidents when they stare for too long at the passing landscape, a billboard or an accident on the side of the road.
- Eating, drinking or smoking – These activities can become especially dangerous if a driver suddenly drops an item that he or she is consuming and has to bend or reach to pick it up.
- Grooming or putting on makeup – You may be surprised at how often people look in the mirror to put on makeup or comb their hair instead of looking at the road.
Types of Distracted Driving Injuries
Statistics show just how serious the problem of distracted driving is in Texas. According to the Texas Department of Transportation, between 2015 and 2017, distracted driving caused:
- 316,975 total crashes (105,658 per year, on average)
- 7,390 suspected serious injury crashes (2,463 per year)
- 1,250 fatal accidents (417 per year).
The injuries that people suffer in these accidents can be especially severe due to the fact that distracted drivers often fail to see the accident coming. As a result, they may be unable to brake, swerve or take other actions to minimize the impact. Life-changing injuries such as traumatic brain injury, spinal cord injury, internal bleeding, soft tissue damage, fractures and burns are highly common in these crashes.
How An Accident Lawyer Can Help You
Distracted driving is negligent driving. It is unreasonable, unsafe conduct that breaches the duty of care that drivers owe to others who are on or near the road. This is why you have the right to pursue full and fair compensation if a distracted driver causes a crash that injures you or causes the loss of a loved one.
Douglas D. Ketterman is the originator and founder of Ketterman, Rowland & Westlund where he currently serves as President and Managing Shareholder. Douglas has extensive experience in handling all types of civil litigation. He graduated with honors from St. Mary’s School of Law in 1989 and has been Board Certified as a Specialist in Personal Injury Trial Law since 1998 by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization.