Distracted driving causes as many as a third of all traffic accidents. The rapid rise in communications technology is associated with an increase in the problem. The dangers of texting at the wheel and other forms of inattentive driving are highlighted every year during Distracted Driving Awareness Month in April.
Each day about 9 people are killed and more than 1,000 are injured in crashes reported to involve distracted driving, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Distracted driving is defined as taking part in another activity that takes your attention away from the road ahead. Distracted driving can increase the chance of a motor vehicle crash.
There are many different types of distracted driving. They can all be extremely serious for the occupants of vehicles and other drivers on the road. CDC highlights for main types, namely:
- Visual: taking your eyes off the road ahead
- Manual: taking your hands off the steering wheel
- Cognitive: taking your mind off the road
If you or a loved one has been hurt in a crash involving a distracted driver, please talk to our team of Virginia car accident lawyers.
How Serious Is Distracted Driving in Virginia?
According to Virginia Traffic Crash Facts, police dealt with 843 deaths in Virginia in 2017. Distracted drivers caused almost a quarter of all fatal wrecks in the Commonwealth.
The death figure tells only half of the story. Virginia Department of Transportation states another 14,656 people were injured in distracted driving crashes in Virginia in 2017. The figure represents a 3.4 percent fall over 2016.
Although distracted driving has been a problem since the arrival of the motor car, new technology has made it more prevalent.
Is Distracted Driving Illegal in Virginia?
Some forms of distracted driving are illegal in Virginia. For instance, § 46.2-1078.1 bans texting or manually entering digits on a handheld device.
An attempt to enact a more sweeping “hands-free” driving bill died in the Virginia General Assembly in February 2019, even though lawmakers in both the House of Delegates and Virginia State Senate backed the bill. It would have outlawed all use of a hands-free phone including making calls and talking.
Drivers who violated the law would have received a ticket for $125 for a first offense and $250 for a second offense.
The last-minute failure of the bill followed a conference report that added the phrases “in his hand” and “while physically manipulating the device to view, read, or enter data” to the legislation, according to media reports.
Lawmakers said the changes altered the measure too fundamentally and it was no longer a “hands-free bill.”
Although legislation targets smartphones and other electronic devices, motorists are involved in other types of distracted driving.
Common Types of Distracted Driving
Most of us now use GPS (Global Positioning System) to navigate. It’s a major form of distracted driving. GPS replaced maps, which were often another source of distracted driving.
Setting up a GPS route while you are moving is just as dangerous as texting at the wheel. Many drivers rely too much on their GPS for directions. They may stare at the map or be distracted by verbal directions. If you intend to use GPS, make sure it is mounted where you can easily see it on your car’s dashboard. Turn up the volume anyway so as you can listen to the directions instead of having to look at the screen.
Smartphones and cellphones are a major cause of distracted driving, especially among teens. According to a poll by AAA, 94 percent of teen drivers acknowledge the dangers of texting at the wheel, but 35 percent admitted to doing it anyway. More than one-in-five teen drivers involved in fatal accidents was distracted by their device.
The U.S. Department of Transportation says drivers take their eyes off the road for about 5 seconds if they send a text while driving. At 55 mph, that’s the equivalent of driving the length of an entire football field with your eyes closed.
Smartphone distractions go beyond texting. People check emails, social media, watch videos, and check other apps on their phone while driving. There have even been cases of drivers who crashed while using their phone to shoot videos.
Eating and drinking at the wheel is a form of distraction that predates cellular devices. This can be a serious form of inattentive driving, particularly when the driver tries to unwrap food. Hot drinks can spill, causing motorists to veer off the road. Always pull over to eat or drink if possible. Get a passenger to help you with food.
4. Children and pets in cars
Kids may be a major distraction in cars. Younger kids often scream for attention, diverting the driver from his or her task. Bad behavior and roughhousing that can cause a driver to turn around is particularly problematic. Even watching kids instead of traffic in the rearview window can divert attention away from the road, making a crash more likely.
It’s always tempting for drivers who are also parents to be pulled into a conversation with kids and to stop concentrating. Ideally, designate another adult passenger to deal with children.
Ensure all children are properly restrained. The same applies to pets. Dogs, the most likely pet to be traveling in a car, should remain in the back, ideally with a barrier, and not be allowed to roam freely in a moving car.
5. Being Lost in Your Thoughts
Being lost in thought or daydreaming may be one of the biggest causes of distracted driving. A study by Erie Insurance suggested this caused a staggering 61 percent of fatal distracted driving wrecks.
It’s not easy to quantify being lost in thought in the same way as texting before a crash. However, a failure to concentrate on the road ahead is a significant cause of distracted driving.
Call a Virginia Injury Lawyer over Distracted Driving Crashes
Please put down your phone or your hamburger during Distracted Driving Awareness Month and for the rest of the year. If you or a family member was hit by a distracted driver, call our Virginia trial lawyers today at 757.244.7000.