According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), eight people are killed in distracted driving accidents every day in the United States. While dashboard touchscreens are designed to cut down on cellphone use and reduce distractions, studies show that they can actually distract the driver mentally and visually, which is a dangerous combination.
Drivers who take their eyes off the road and their hands off the wheel for any reason are liable if they cause a distracted driving car accident. For this reason, it is important to know the risks of touchscreens and use them responsibly each and every time one gets behind the wheel.
Touchscreens Growing in Size and Popularity
Most new cars, trucks, and SUVS are equipped with in-vehicle infotainment systems (IVI). These dashboard-mounted screens allow users to control music, directions, cabin climate, and rearview cameras using speech or touch. As IVI systems are becoming more advanced, they are also getting bigger.
Researchers from the University of Utah partnered with the American Automobile Association (AAA) to assess drivers and their attention levels when using dashboard touchscreens in 30 different vehicle models. Among other tasks, drivers were asked to do the following:
- Tune the radio
- Use the navigation system
- Make a phone call
- Send a voice-activated text message
Vehicles were rated based on how much demand was required to perform these tasks. Out of all the cars and SUVs tested, not a single model created a low demand for the driver’s attention. All produced at least a moderate demand for attention, and 23 created a high or very high demand for the operator’s attention.
What are the Types of Distractions?
There are three forms of distracted driving:
- Cognitive: Taking one’s mind off driving.
- Manual: Taking one’s hands off the steering wheel.
- Visual: Taking one’s eyes off the road.
Studies show that a driver can only look away from the road safely for one or two seconds. One should consider it takes around five seconds to read or send a short text message. Plugging in directions or changing the radio station on a vehicle touchscreen may take a few more seconds. Imagine that driving without paying full attention to the road is similar to driving while blindfolded. It is dangerous misconception to assume using a touchscreen is a safe alternative to using a cellphone while driving.
Common Distracted Driving Accident Injuries
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports that 2,841 people were killed and more than 400,000 people were injured in distracted driving crashes across the nation in a single year. Victims include drivers, passengers, pedestrians, and cyclists. One-quarter of distracted drivers were between 20 and 29 years old. Yet, teenagers up to 19 years old were more likely to be distracted than drivers in all other age groups. In just a few seconds, lives are forever changed after a distracted driving accident. Cars can be repaired or replaced, but a catastrophic physical can last a lifetime.
Here are the most common car accident injuries reported every year:
- Soft Tissue Injuries: Damage to muscles, ligaments, or tendons, including back sprains and whiplash.
- Cuts and Scrapes: Broken glass, car parts, and other objects can lacerate the skin or puncture the body, inviting infection and requiring stitches or surgery.
- Head Injuries: Open and closed head injuries can cause pain, brain damage, and long-term cognitive problems.
- Chest Injuries: This includes scrapes, broken ribs, and internal organ damage.
- Arm and Leg Injuries: Cuts, scrapes, broken bones, strains and sprains, and even amputations are among common arm and leg injuries.
How can I Safely Use a Touchscreen?
Most drivers would agree using voice or touch-activated IVI systems require more time and attention than standard button controls. Since so many vehicles require touchscreens to control important features, how can drivers use them responsibly? A motorist should program all settings before putting the car in motion, and they should enter directions and send all messages before driving. A driver should stop the car and safely pull over if there is a need to use the dashboard touchscreen.
What are the Penalties for Distracted Driving in Virginia?
A touchscreen system is just one cause of distracted driving. Distracted driving wrecks happen for a variety of reasons, such as:
- Mobile phone use
- Eating while driving
- Tending to a child in the back seat
- Turning to talk to passengers
- Doing one’s hair or makeup
- Picking up objects off the floor
Virginia has laws to prevent distracted driving. On January 1, 2020, a law prohibiting the use of mobile phones while driving was enacted. Drivers are fined $125 for a first offense and up to $250 for a second offense or if the distracted driver was in a construction zone at the time. Anyone reporting an emergency or driving an emergency vehicle is exempt from the law.
What Types of Damages are Available in Car Accident Claims?
Distracted driving laws in Virginia do not specifically address the risk of touchscreens and other common distractions. However, it is still important to drive as safely as possible. If someone is injured in a preventable traffic accident, they have the right to bring a claim against the at-fault driver. A successful personal injury claim allows the injured party to recover costs for the following:
- Physical pain and suffering
- Mental anguish
- Past and future medical bills
- Loss of income and earning capacity
In some cases, both parties are able to agree to a settlement. If they cannot arrive at a fair resolution, the claimant can sue.
How can I Prove the Other Driver was Distracted?
Unlike drivers who run red lights or are caught under the influence of alcohol or drugs, it is more challenging to show a driver was distracted. However, showing fault and causation are still important elements of a car accident injury claim. There is no simple test to prove distraction, but there are other ways to gather the evidence that suggests the driver was not paying attention. Possible evidence in a distracted driving case includes:
Cellphone Records: A phone record can show that the driver was distracted leading up to the accident. The timing of calls, texts, and emails are compared against the timing of the crash to determine if the driver was using their phone.
Witness Accounts: Individuals who observe the driver’s behavior before a crash may confirm they were looking down at the infotainment center, typing on the phone, or distracted in some other way. Witnesses share their observations with police at the scene and can be called into court to testify as well.
Camera Footage: Red light cameras, vehicle dash cams, and nearby security cameras provide indisputable proof of reckless driving.
Police Report: Most police reports include the police officer’s initial assessment of fault based on the evidence and witness accounts. This is why it is important for anyone involved in a wreck to tell the police exactly what happened and if they observed anyone driving in a dangerous manner.
While it is rare, some drivers actually admit to using their phone or touchscreen prior to a crash.
Should I Consult a Lawyer for Assistance?
A skilled car accident lawyer can prove that a driver was not paying attention at the time of the accident. When looking for a local car accident lawyer, ask friends and colleagues for recommendations, read online reviews, and ask potential lawyers about their track records resolving difficult personal injury claims. After a car accident, it is important to contact a lawyer as soon as possible due to time restraints.
Virginia Beach Car Accident Lawyers Fight for Clients Injured by Distracted Drivers
Touchscreens can be beneficial if they are used safely; however, the incorrect usage of auto technology can cause an accident. If you were injured by a distracted driver, a Virginia Beach car accident lawyer can fight on your behalf. At East Coast Trial Lawyers, we use every legal tool available to prove fault and recover fair compensation for victims. Call us at 757-352-2237 or complete our online form for a free consultation today. Located in Virginia Beach, Virginia, we serve clients throughout Chesapeake, Eastern Shore, Hampton, Newport News, Norfolk, Portsmouth, and Suffolk, Virginia, as well as North Carolina and nationwide.