Distracted Driving: Injury and Legal Liability

One Moment Is All It Takes

In the technological era in which we live, many Americans assume that distracted driving refers only to individuals either talking on their cell phones or texting while behind the wheel. However, distracted driving extends much further than just the electronic gadgets and devices which have recently come into the possession of what seems like every American out on the roadways. Distracted driving has been a problem and major cause of accidents much before the invention of the cell phone or other handheld device.

Distractions Can Lead to Serious Injury

If you are a distracted driver, you are at risk to be the cause behind a crash or accident or you may be victim to somebody else crashing into you. Being a distracted driver means that you put yourself, your family, and every other innocent stranger on the road in danger of serious injuries, including death. Some examples that may lead to the labeling of a distracted driver include changing the radio station, eating, drinking, or smoking while behind the wheel. These activities happen all the time, and drivers rarely are aware that they are engaging in distracting, life-threatening behavior.

Federal Statistics Reveal the Danger

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration released data showing that drivers who send and receive text messages take their eyes off the road for an average of 4.6 seconds out of every six seconds while texting. At 55 mph, that means that during that time, the driver travels the length of a football field, including the end zones, without even glancing at the road. Similarly, statistics released by the National Safety Council indicated that 28 percent of traffic accidents occur when drivers are talking on cell phones or sending text messages, which represent the most common form of distracted driving.

Driver of a Commercial Truck

In a recent case of my own, I saw firsthand the devastating consequences of drivers engaging in distracted driving. In this particular case, the driver of an 18-wheeler had been looking down at his company-issued handheld tracking device, known as a "mobile computer" that had texting capabilities, resulting in his inattention to the road ahead. The semi driver blew through a red light at a well-traveled intersection and collided with the vehicle being operated by my client. Handheld devices like this which are operational while the vehicle is in motion are a recipe for disaster. The more I researched distracted driving statistics, consulted with experts, and talked with lawyers who had handled similar cases, the more troubled I became about the hazard that handheld devices of any kind posed for travelers of our roadways.

Damages

That single moment of inattention to the roadway by the truck driver in order to glance at his handheld device has deprived my client of the ability to ever provide for his family again. He will never work again. He will never drive again. His ability to be a meaningful partner to his spouse and a father to his sons was taken that day. There is no doubt that his family is grateful that he is alive and can sit among them. However, what used to be a full schedule of meeting and exceeding professional goals, attending and coaching his children’s sporting events, socializing with friends, and raising two boys with his life companion and his best friend has been diminished to therapy appointments, surgical procedures, and many hours of idle time for a man who was once impossible to slow down.

My client and his family's lives were changed irreparably in one moment – the instant the distracted driver chose to focus on his handheld device instead of the roadway. I have seen the tragic results of what can happen in a distracted driving case and can tell you that no call or e-mail is that important. Pull over. Companies should all have restriction on the use of cell phones and handheld devices so that catastrophes such as this one occur less frequently.

Changes in Law

The Insurance Institute For Highway Safety reported its results from a meticulous study concerning distracted driving and safety. The study found that laws banning hand-held phone use seem to discourage some drivers from talking on any type of phone and motivate some drivers to talk hands-free. Hopefully this sets a trend among American and state lawmakers. U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood announced recently that the government formally barred truckers and bus drivers from sending text messages while behind the wheel. This announcement followed a study released by Virginia Tech’s Transportation Institute that found that when truckers text, they are 23 times more likely to be involved in a crash or near miss. Currently, only seven states have banned talking on cell phones while driving. Indiana does not have a general ban on talking on cell phones while driving but does have a ban on anyone younger than 18 years old driving while texting or talking on cell phones. These bans should leave drivers optimistic that distracted driving will continue to be monitored more and more as time progresses, resulting in saved lives.

From the Author: Indianapolis Personal Injury Attorneys

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