Summer is coming, and with it the usual spate of summer activities that can be fun but can also unfortunately lead to accidents and injuries. Whatever your plans are this summer, it is likely you will be on the road, whether for vacation, or just going back and forth to parties or activities.
It is important to be aware of some of the dangers of what is now known as “distracted driving,” and how the uptick in distracted drivers on the road during the summer can affect your safety.
Because it is summer, the teenagers are out of school, and if they are home and of legal age, it is likely that they will be behind the wheel. Many of these drivers may be inexperienced, or especially subject to distracted driving.
It used to be that DUI was the major danger on the roads, and for the most part, alcohol or drugs were the primary reason that someone would drive dangerously. But today, with the rise of technology, the broader term of “distracted driving,” has arisen. The term usually refers to driving while being preoccupied with technology—usually cell phones, but it can also include:
- Eating and drinking
- Talking to passengers
- Reading, including maps
- Using a navigation system
- Watching a video
- Adjusting a radio, CD player, or MP3 player
- Using an in-car infotainment or entertainment system
In some cases, drivers have even been noted to change clothes or brush their teeth while operating a car.
Text Messaging and Distracted Driving Dangers
Text messaging is of particular concern. Unlike DUI, texting physically diverts a driver’s eyesight from the road. A car traveling at 55 miles per hour can go the length of a football field in just the five seconds it takes for someone to just read a text message.
According to government studies, in 2014, 3,179 people were killed, and 431,000 were injured in distracted driver car accidents. Drivers aged 15-19—the age of minors who are home from school and on the roads in the summer—are the most likely to suffer distracted driving accidents. 10% of all drivers in this age group were involved in fatal accidents because of distracted driving.
Overall, on a daily basis, eight people are killed and 1,161 injured in distracted driving accidents, according to the Centers for Disease Control.
In many cases, it can be hard to avoid distracted driving, as more and more vehicles actually try to distract drivers by incorporating essential features of a car into on-screen systems. Many cars require the driver mess with menus and submenus on the screen in order to just check gas levels, or engine warnings.
Laws Are Not Up to Speed
Federal laws, which can regulate commercial drivers, have banned the use of electronic devices while driving on the job. But the federal government cannot pass or enforce general laws banning texting as to residents of individual states.
Unfortunately, Florida laws are not up to speed with the dangers of distracted driving. Driving while texting is a secondary violation, meaning that someone can not be pulled over solely because they are texting if they are otherwise not breaking the law. They can only be cited for texting if they are pulled over for another, separate violation.
Effects on Lawsuits
Of course, the danger in distracted driving (and DUI) is not just to you, it is also to those who you might injure if you are engaged in such activity. Personal injury suits involving auto accidents now routinely involve the discovery exchange of cell phone usage, and other distracted driver information.
In lawsuits, cell phone provider records can be obtained by both parties, which often will reveal whether someone was using a phone just before an accident occurred. And, today’s cars have “black box” technology, which may track how you were using your car just before an accident, including whether you were fiddling with the in-car entertainment system or using an in-car navigational system.
This information can be extraordinarily powerful in providing a personal injury claim, and holding someone negligent. Often, those accused of causing car accidents will claim the other car “came out of nowhere,” or will try to claim the victim is at fault fully or partially for an accident.
Those defenses are often eviscerated when evidence comes to light that the driver was engaged in distracted driving.
Dangers to Everyone
As summer approaches, not only will there be more drivers on the road, but there will be more pedestrians. Beaches, city streets, and other public recreational areas will have more people walking about. Even if those people are not completely attentive as to their own safety (as they should be), that interaction with distracted drivers creates a very dangerous situation.
Just like DUI, it may be impossible for you to completely avoid distracted drivers. Most who are injured by those driving under the influence are themselves blameless.
The “good” thing about distracted driving is that in many cases, pedestrians and other drivers may be able to see if another driver is distracted—unlike with DUI, where it is often impossible to see if another driver is drunk just by looking.
On slower streets, pedestrians should make sure if they can that a driver is attentive to the road. If you are driving in a lane next to someone looking down at a screen, be wary, and change lanes if you can.
It is also important to remember that many insurance policies do not cover accidents caused by DUI, or may not cover punitive damages, which are available to someone who is injured by another driver who is driving under the influence.
This means that your personal assets could be put at issue if you cause an accident, even if you have the best insurance.
Stay safe as summer comes, and make sure if you are injured, your attorneys understand how to pursue the negligent parties. Call the injury attorneys of Brill & Rinaldi today for a free consultation to discuss your case.