You may be surprised to learn it is not inexperience, bad weather, or even drunk driving that leads to the highest number of car accidents every year. Distracted driving is currently the leading cause of motor vehicle accidents in the United States. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states that every day in the United States, about eight people are killed in car crashes that are reported to involve a distracted driver.
Consider that a distracted driving collision can happen in the two to three seconds that you look down at your phone or turn your head to talk to a passenger in the back seat. A study conducted by the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute (VTTI) determined that taking your eyes off the road for just two seconds or more doubles your risk of a car accident. Even something as simple as daydreaming can take your mind away from operating your vehicle in a safe manner.
Knowing how and why distracted driving accidents occur may motivate all motorists to pay attention while behind the wheel.
How Do Distractions Impede Driving?
If you are looking in the mirror and putting on makeup behind the wheel, you probably will not see that traffic has come to a stop in front of you, and before you know it, you have hit a car. Distracted driving accidents usually happen fast.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) warns that sending or reading a text on a mobile phone takes one’s eyes off the road for around five seconds. If you are traveling at a speed of 55 miles per hour, that is the equivalent of driving the entire length of a football field with your eyes closed. In that brief amount of time, you can veer from your lane, swerve into oncoming traffic, hit another vehicle, or collide with a pedestrian.
What are Common Distractions?
Cellphones may be come to your mind when you think about distracted driving. However, there are plenty of other activities and habits that interfere with driving. Some common driving distractions include:
- Attending to pets and/or passengers
- Adjusting the radio
- Eating and drinking
- Looking in the mirror
- Personal grooming
- Reaching for objects that have fallen
- Reading roadside signs
- Reading maps
- Staring at car accident scenes
Is it Safe to Use a Hands-Free Device?
While using a hands-free device while driving is certainly safer than typing and scrolling on the phone, it is still considered unsafe. Distractions generally fall into three categories based on how they impact the mind and body. There are visual distractions that take one’s focus and eyes off the road. Manual distractions take one’s hands off the wheel. Cognitive distractions keep the mind from focusing on the road. All are equally disruptive and dangerous.
Using a hands-free device is a cognitive distraction. Calling your friend to catch up on your ride home from work requires your brain to split your attention between your call and driving. In 2012, the National Safety Council (NSC) published a groundbreaking study on the distracted brain, dispelling the myth that hands-free devices are safer than handheld devices for driving.
Researchers explained that multitasking is a myth. The human brain cannot perform two tasks at once. Instead, the brain tackles tasks sequentially, switching back and forth between them. That constant task switching is a serious distraction, and if that happens while the person is behind the wheel, the results can be catastrophic.
Use Technology to Silence Your Phone
Every driver is capable of distracted driving. However, according to recent data, younger drivers are the worst offenders. Parents, educators, and law enforcement agencies can work together to prevent youth-related distracted driving accidents and save lives by communicating the risks of texting and driving, modeling good driving habits, and using positive reinforcement to encourage safe choices.
Most phones come with Do Not Disturb mode that allow drivers to silence their texts and calls. In fact, some models allow you to preset a message letting your contacts know you are driving and that you will get back to them once you arrive at your destination.
What are the Penalties for Distracted Driving in Virginia?
If you drive in Virginia, you should know the law when it comes to distracted driving. As of January 1, 2021, drivers in Virginia are prohibited by law from holding cellphones and other wireless communication devices while driving. Two exceptions are if the driver is lawfully parked or stopped or if it is an emergency.
Texting while driving is illegal in Virginia. The fine for a first offense is $125, and subsequent offenses carry a fine of $250.
How can I Prevent Distracted Driving?
A Do Not Disturb app on your phone is a great start for safer driving. Here are some other easy ways to prevent distracted driving car accidents:
- Commit to using your cellphone only for emergencies. Even then, it is best to pull over safely out of traffic before calling 911.
- Limit the activity and number of passengers in your vehicle. Statistically, the risk of an accident goes up with each additional passenger. Know your limits, and keep car occupants to a minimum.
- Finish tasks outside of the car. Eat your breakfast and make that last phone call before getting into the car. You will be able to focus on the road.
- Store items securely. Plenty of accidents happen when the driver bends down to grab their purse that has overturned or groceries that have spilled out of the bag. Before leaving your parking spot, ensure all loose items are securely stored.
- Avoid using hands-free devices. As tempting as it may be to use voice-activated equipment or make a phone call, these activities can be just as dangerous as texting while driving. A safe driver has their eyes and mind on the road.
When Should I Contact a Car Accident Lawyer?
If you have been severely injured in a car accident that was caused by a distracted driver, you should contact a lawyer as soon as possible. Not only is legal action important to recoup the costs of your medical treatment and repair bills, but a claim can possibly deter a dangerous driver from making the same mistake again in the future.
The reality is that in two to three seconds, a life can be changed forever. If another driver’s careless act caused your injuries, a lawyer can help. It may be difficult to prove that the other driver was distracted at the time of the accident, but an experienced lawyer can help you collect evidence. A lawyer can help you determine if you are eligible to pursue a legal case.
Virginia Beach Car Accident Lawyers Represent Clients Injured in Serious Distracted Driving Accidents
Many people do not fully understand the dangers of distracted driving. Every motorist should learn about how they can avoid distracted driving. If you have been injured in a distracted driving accident, a Virginia Beach car accident lawyer can help you. At East Coast Trial Lawyers, we advocate for those injured by distracted drivers. Call us at 757-352-2237 or complete our online form to schedule a free consultation today. Located in Virginia Beach, we serve clients throughout Chesapeake, Eastern Shore, Hampton, Newport News, Norfolk, Portsmouth, and Suffolk, Virginia, as well as North Carolina and nationwide.