Houston Distracted Driving Accident Attorneys
Hold Negligent Motorists Accountable to Rebuild Your Life
In 2010, 3,000+ victims died as a result of distracted driving accidents. Although distracted driving does not account for the majority of vehicular deaths per year, it does contribute significantly to the number of injuries. Although individual states have enacted many laws regarding distracted driving, most drivers continue with such practices. Those most at risk for causing a distracted driving accident are drivers under the age of 20, who with their inexperience combined with distraction cause accidents more frequently than other groups of people.
Were you injured in an accident with a distracted driver? Contact an attorney at our Houston law office today!
The Three Major Forms of Distraction
Distractions come in all shapes and sizes and are typically split up into three different categories:
- Any time a driver's eyes are not on the road, this is a visual distraction.
- When a driver is not thinking clearly about the situation at hand, this is a cognitive distraction.
- When a driver's hands are not on the wheel, this constitutes a manual distraction.
Per the NHTSA, the chief causes of distracted driving accidents are cell phone use, reaching for an object in the car, looking at something else (such as rubbernecking), reading, and applying makeup. Many people assume that practice makes perfect and that if they are used to multi-tasking while driving then they will be safe. Quite the contrary is true. Statistics show that those who drive distracted more frequently are at a higher risk for an accident.
Accidents Caused by Drivers Texting While Driving
Did you know nearly 20% of all traffic fatalities each year could be avoided had it not been for a driver who was texting while driving? This is shocking, especially considering that texting and driving have been outlawed in most states. In Texas, all "novice" drivers (license for less than a year) are banned from using cells while driving in any capacity. Texas has also banned texting and driving for bus drivers and drivers in school zones. While texting may not be outlawed for every driver, it can be considered negligence if it contributes to a collision.
NHTSA has provided the most commonly-used analogy to represent the dangers of texting while driving:
"Texting…involves manual, visual, and cognitive distraction simultaneously. Sending or reading a text takes your eyes off the road for 4.6 seconds. At 55 mph, that's like driving the length of an entire football field while blindfolded."
34 states and the District of Columbia currently have laws prohibiting people from driving while texting. In 31 states, it's considered a primary offense, which means an officer can pull you over just for texting. Don't think that means people aren't still doing it. A study released by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) in December of 2011 reveals that the percentage of drivers who texted while driving increased from 0.6 % of drivers in 2009 to 0.9 % in 2010. In New York, where texting and driving were only made a primary offense in July 2011, the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) had issued 4,634 tickets for the crime by the middle of September.
If so many of us are doing it, can texting while driving really be that dangerous?
The answer, unfortunately, is a resounding yes. In the same study that revealed the percentage of drivers who text and drive, the NHTSA found that reading or writing texts behind the wheel increases your chances of having an accident by 2300%! About 6,000 deaths and half a million injuries are caused by distracted drivers every year. Many of these deaths involve accidents with large trucks. In general, a truck accident is more likely to result in a fatality due to the vehicle's sheer size. A distracted truck driver is 23.2 times more likely to crash than a driver paying full attention to the road. Considering that, you can quickly see how deadly a problem it can become.
Young Drivers & Cell Phones
Another worrisome statistic is a majority of drivers who choose to text while driving are typically between the ages of 16 to 24. More than half of all teenagers who own cell phones between the ages of 16 and 17 say they frequently text or talk on the phone while driving, per research from the Pew Research Foundation. Drivers between the ages of 16 and 24 are considered "inexperienced" and at a higher risk for being in an accident. Combine inexperience with distraction and it is a recipe for disaster. Research also seems to indicate that teenagers who are passengers being driven by other teenagers who text and drive are less likely to speak up about texting. When other teens don't speak up, it can translate into a texting and driving accident that could end up costing them their lives.
Statistics on Distracted Driving & Cell Phone Use
According to the NHTSA, distracted driving killed a total of 3,166 people in 2017. The organization defines distracted driving as any activity that diverts attention from driving, including talking or texting on the phone. Distracted driving caused by cell phones decreased by about 0.4 percent between 2016 and 2017. However, cell phone usage during fatal distracted driving accidents has increased from 12 percent to 14 percent of all distracted driving incidents since 2012. While this does mean that distraction from cell phones has decreased slightly, the devices still account for the same percentage of overall accidents.
Even though accidents caused by cell phones are occurring at a consistently increasing percentage, the NHTSA has also found that cell phone use is becoming less common amongst all age groups. The administration notes that the rate of cell phone use for drivers aged 16 to 24 has decreased by 4.5 percent, 2.9 percent for ages 25 to 60, and 0.5 percent for those 70 and over.
Why Cell Phone Use While Driving Has Declined
The Insurance Information Institute attributes declines in cellphone use to state laws that prohibit cell phones or other types of electronic devices from being used while driving. As of June of 2019, 19 states had laws prohibiting talking on a hand-held device.
However, some posit that these laws mostly increase awareness and do very little to prevent accidents. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety claims that the best way to reduce distracted driving accidents is by using crash avoidance technology in more cars. While the IIHS does not suggest repealing cell phone laws, it does suggest that there might be more effective technological answers for the decline in crashes.
IIHS has research to back its theory. In Virginia, the organization found that even though phone usage has dropped in the state, drivers are engaging in riskier behavior in the moments they give into checking their device. Drivers in Virginia are spending more time manipulating their phones and focused on them. Experts found that these drivers are at risk of crashing which is 2 to 3.5 times higher than other phone users.
Where Does Distracted Driving Occur Most?
Studies reveal that almost 70% of all car accidents occur 10 miles from a driver’s home. This is primarily due to distracted driving. Rather than focus on the speed limit, traffic around them, or driving etiquette, drivers think about things they need to do, places they need to go, and what they are going to eat. As a result, their muscles relax, their mind is at ease, and their senses are dulled. This gives drivers a false sense of security, even though they are still traveling down the road. They are ignorant of their immediate surroundings because the background is so familiar. This makes drivers who are close to home some of the most distracted operators on the road.
Drivers in a new area by themselves are another category of people who may be distracted while driving. A driver in a new area will have increased “driving sense” due to being in an unfamiliar location. However, despite their heightened driving sensitivity, other variables will nullify those amplified perceptions. A driver in a new area may be looking at their map to make sure they are going the right way, or they may be trying to read road signs that they are unfamiliar with. Any time a driver focuses on these things, they are driving distracted.
Texting & Driving Rules for Commercial Drivers
While texting and driving is illegal in nearly all states, there are few that only enforce these rules on novice drivers, if at all. With recent reports continuing to shed light on the severe danger of texting and driving, it seems like it may only be a matter of time before bans are in place across the country. Some research has even shown that texting while driving results in nearly 24 times the risk for accidents involving commercial vehicle drivers.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has decided to step in and take action to help prevent texting and driving accidents. Specifically, they have published new rules that restrict texting while driving or use of a hand-held mobile device for all truck drivers operating a CMV.
The penalties and consequences for texting while driving vary depending on the state the offense took place, the number of offenses a driver has committed, and any other contributing factors. In general, truck or bus drivers found to be texting while operating their commercial vehicle can expect to face rather steep penalties.
The following may be enforced for texting while driving a CMV:
- Driver disqualification for 120 days
- Fines ranging up to $2,750
- Up to $11,000 in fines for employers allowing / requiring hand-held devices
For commercial motor vehicle drivers who have multiple texting while driving offenses on their record, disqualification by the FMCSA is a serious possibility. This could mean loss of livelihood for truck drivers, demonstrate the seriousness with which the FMCSA is approaching texting while driving violations.
How Hiring a Houston Distracted Driving Attorney Can Help
If you were injured in an accident caused by a distracted driver, you should speak with our firm. At Arnold & Itkin, we're here to help those injured due to the recklessness and negligence of another. Those who drive distracted should be made accountable. Depending on your accident's severity, you could be suffering from chronic pain that needs continued care. You may also need compensation for lost wages or compensation for rehabilitation costs.
Whatever the particulars of your case, it would be best to speak with an attorney from our firm so that you can find out exactly what options you have. Contact us today!