In our busy world, many people are tempted to multi-task from sunup to sundown. However, driving demands all of your attention. When people are distracted while driving, their negligence may cause serious collisions that result in injuries or even fatalities. Most people zero in on texting or talking on the phone when thinking about distracted driving, but there are a number of different types of distracted driving that can lead to a collision. If you’ve suffered serious injuries or lost a loved one due to the actions of a distracted driver, contact the Law Offices of Craig L. Cook to discuss your options.
Types of Distracted Driving
There are three main types of distracted driving: those involving visual distractions, those involving manual distractions, and those involving cognitive distractions. Of course, some activities (such as texting or e-mailing) involve all three types, impairing the driver in three different ways.
Did you know that, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, a vehicle moving at 55 mph will travel the length of a football field if the driver glances down at their cell phone for just 5 seconds? All drivers should be aware of what constitutes a distraction while driving and avoid engaging in unsafe activities.
The following are just some of the activities that often distract drivers:
- Reading and responding to text messages
- Watching or taking videos
- Checking social media
- Talking on a cell phone
- Eating and drinking
- Using a vehicle’s navigation system
- Reading books or maps
- Adjusting the radio
- Entertaining or disciplining a child
- Using a phone to read e-mails, check the weather, etc.
- Looking for something within the car
Not only are these tasks dangerous while driving, but also they’re illegal in some states. According to the Insurance Institute of Highway Safety, as of May 2019, 20 states ban hand-held cell phone use while driving and 48 states ban texting while driving. In Arkansas, using a hand-held cell phone for texting, typing, email, or using the internet while driving can result in a $250 fine for a first offense and a $500 fine for all subsequent offenses. In Oklahoma, texting while driving carries a maximum fine of $100.
Commercial truck drivers are held to even stricter standards. If a commercial truck driver utilizes a hand-held device while operating a commercial vehicle, that person is violating the law and may face significant fines and penalties, including a fine of up to $11,000 and driver disqualification by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA). “Using a mobile telephone” includes the following behaviors: using one hand to hold the phone and make a call, dialing by pressing more than one button on a phone, and reaching for a phone in such a way that the driver is no longer in a seated position (source). If this behavior causes a collision, the driver may be held liable for compensatory damages as well as punitive damages against the driver and possibly against the employing company as well, if the company did not provide proper training.
Manual distractions are activities that require the driver to take one or both hands off the wheel. These include texting, drinking, eating, smoking, helping children with their seat-belts, rummaging through a purse, turning the knobs of a stereo, and other similar actions. These activities can be dangerous because they reduce your ability to steer the wheel accurately, reduce your reaction time, and may cause you to veer into another traffic lane or off the road.
Visual distractions are activities that cause drivers to take their eyes away from the road. These activities can include texting while driving, looking at your vehicle’s navigation system, looking at electronic devices, grooming, or looking at billboards and buildings. Visual distractions are especially dangerous because they prevent you from assessing your surroundings for hazards. If you take your eyes off the road for even a second or two, you could fail to see in time that traffic has slowed ahead of you or veer into an adjacent lane and collide with another vehicle.
Cognitive distractions are activities that take your mental focus away from the road. These include any activity that causes your mind to wander, including using hands-free phones to call people, talking to passengers, listening to podcasts or music, and daydreaming. Cognitive distractions prevent drivers from fully recognizing potential hazards, meaning that their reaction times might be slower. While many people think that hands-free devices are safe to use while they drive, the National Safety Council reports that drivers who use these devices miss seeing up to half of what is going on around them.
You might be concerned about the fact that listening to podcasts, music, or the radio is considered a cognitive distraction. Current research isn’t definitive regarding whether drivers actively listening to something are worse drivers than those who aren’t (source). However, we encourage you to carefully consider your choices when choosing what to listen to, avoiding anything that will dominate too much of your brain (especially the visual parts of your brain). Keep the volume at a reasonable level, and never use headphones or earbuds while driving.
Have You Been Injured in an Accident Caused by Distracted Driving?
If you have suffered injuries in an accident with a distracted driver, you may be entitled to recover compensation for your losses. The personal injury lawyers at the Law Offices of Craig L. Cook can provide a free case evaluation and talk to you about the merits of your potential claim. Contact us today to schedule your complimentary consultation by calling 479-783-8000 or by using our online contact form.