Ever wonder why we see and read about so many incidents of horrific, yet preventable, car accidents in the news lately? One reason may well be the increase in distracted driving. Statistics show that out of all 15-19 year olds involved in fatal car accidents, 10% were classified as distracted drivers at the time of the crash, according to the US Department of Transportation (US DOT). In fact, in July 2016, the National Highway Safety Administration published a report citing car crashes as the number 1 cause of death for 16-24 year olds for the years 2012-2014. While fatal car accidents have been removed from the top ten causes of death in the United States in 2014, car accidents remain the 13th leading cause of death.
Mandated seat-belt use and tougher penalties for driving under the influence have decreased traffic fatalities over the last few years, but the number of injuries have been increasing. According to the US DOT, in 2015, there were 105,000 more people injured in car crashes than in the previous year. These numbers are drawing attention to the growing number of people who are tempted by smart phones while driving. Even though we all have seen teens with Pokemon Go open in the car and busy moms checking Facebook in the school drop-off lane, there are real medical and financial consequences to these distracted driving incidents.
However, using a cell phone while driving isn’t the only type of distracted driving. According to the Overview of the National Highway Traffic Safe Administration’s Drive Distraction Program, “distraction is a specific type of inattention that occurs when drivers divert their attention from the driving task to focus on some other activity instead.” So by definition, distracted driving would including anything the driver is doing that is not driving, like searching for music, changing clothes, scanning the newspaper, applying makeup or eating fast food. Many people have had close calls just changing a radio station, so it is not difficult to understand that this is a common occurrence with ever more present technology in our cars. From GPS systems to audiobooks to car performance statistics displayed on the dashboard, we all have many activities vying for our attention while we drive.
The results of distracted driving accidents can range from minor injuries to life-altering impairment, to death. If an accident victim suffers a debilitating back injury or amputation, this will lead to lifelong pain and suffering, as well as medial costs for care. Of course there can be substantial cost associated with pain and suffering even with minor injuries after an automobile accident, but lifetime costs associated with a more severe injury—like a spinal cord injury or amputation—can run into the millions. This possibility means that accident victims can be facing costs far beyond their means and may need help not only with medial expenses but with securing life-long care. Consider these issues when seeking compensation if you have been involved in any distracted driving accident where there may be fault on the part of the driver. And, certainly don’t text and drive.