distracted drivingIncreasingly, people try to manage the complexity of their lives by multitasking. Whether eating while driving or sending a text message while waiting at an intersection, motorists are trying to cram a lot of tasks into the time they should be focused on the road. As a result, thousands of drivers are injured a year and multiple deaths are caused by completely preventable accidents.

These statistics are the reason why GJEL is completely committed to preventing these deaths and injuries. We’re also concerned with discouraging actions that can lead to these deaths and accidents. We’ve included a few tips to help you do that below.

However, if you have been hit by a distracted driver, we want to hear from you. The Northern California car accident attorneys at GJEL help injured motorists get the compensation they need.

What Is Distracted Driving?

Driving while distracted is one of the primary reasons there are accidents. Completely preventable accidents. Distracted driving is driving while doing another activity that takes your attention away from driving, or multitasking. Multitasking while driving is considered distracted driving. Texting and driving is considered distracted driving. In fact, the most dangerous kind of distracted driving is texting and driving.

There are three types of distracted driving, according to the Center for Disease Control:

3 Types of distracted driving1. “Visual: taking your eyes off the road;
2. Manual: taking your hands off the wheel; and
3. Cognitive: taking your mind off of driving.”

Texting and driving uses all three types of distraction. Your eyes are on the phone, so they can’t be on the road. Your hands are on the phone, so they can’t be on the wheel. Your mind is on the message you’re reading or replying to.

Is Texting and Driving Dangerous?

Absolutely. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), every day about 9.5 people are killed and 1,000 are injured by distracted driving. A day. From something completely preventable. Texting and talking on a cell phone make up a large fraction of distracted driving cases. Unfortunately, NHTSA reports that more people are texting while driving—about 32% in 2015 as compared to 27% in 2012.

It is easy enough to illustrate how dangerous texting and driving is. At 55 miles an hour, a car will travel the entire length of a football field in five seconds. This means that in the time it takes to simply read a text message, you will travel 100 yards with your eyes off the road. Unsurprisingly, many people crash as they fail to see cars entering the road or fail to yield because they did not see a stop sign.

Based on one study, texting while driving impaired a driver’s reflexes and ability to respond more than being legally intoxicated. The results surprised the participants, all of whom assumed that they would be more alert while texting.

More statistics from the Center for Disease Control and the National Security Council include:

Distracted Driving Accident● 26% of all car crashes in 2014 involved cell phone use.
● At least 9 people are killed every day because of a distracted driver.
● More than 1,000 people are injured every day due to a distracted driver.
● In 2015, 42% of teens said they have texted while driving—and texting and driving is the leading cause of death in teens.

According to the Journal of Adolescent Health, and, again, this study, texting and driving can put you at a higher risk of getting into an accident than driving under the blood alcohol level. We also don’t recommend you drink and drive, even legally. Just for clarification.

More Facts

Sometimes it takes a village to stop something preventable such as this. Governments across the united states have taken action to stop this, all the way down to state and local governments. Here are some of the actions taken by various levels of government in the United States according to the Center for Disease Control.

● “As of June 2017, texting while driving is banned in 46 states and the District of Columbia. Two additional states ban texting while driving only for new drivers”
● “On September 30, 2009, President Obama issued an executive order prohibiting federal employees from texting while driving on government business or with government equipment.”

As you can see, action is being taken. It, unfortunately, is not enough. As you read up above, with improved access to cell phones and smart phones, and teenagers getting increasingly reliant on their phones, the rate of texting and driving is overall going up. Unfortunately and obviously, this can lead to accidents which can lead to serious harm or even death.

Accidents Caused While Texting and Driving

Accidents caused while texting and drivingWe’ve compiled a list of various types of accidents that can happen. If you insist on texting and driving, you increase the risks of the following types of accidents:

  • Rear-end collisions. With your eyes glued on the phone, you might never see the car stopped in front of you. If a commercial tractor-trailer is parked in front of you, you could go right underneath, causing horrific injuries as the trailer smashes in the windshield and peels off the roof of your passenger car.
  • Drifting into oncoming traffic. The longer you look at the phone, the less control you will have over your vehicle. It is normal to drift into oncoming traffic, leading to head-on collisions.
  • T-bones. If you are texting, you might run a red light and get T-boned by a car going on a green light.
  • Pedestrian accidents. Reading a text message is particularly dangerous as you approach an intersection. You might never see someone enter the crosswalk. Even if you only text while stopped at a red light, you might forget to check whether someone has entered the crosswalk late before you hit the accelerator.

In sum, there is no reason to risk your safety or the safety of others by texting behind the wheel. Instead, put the phone away until you reach your destination or pull over.

Penalties For Texting and Driving

As stated above, 46 states, along with Washington D.C., Puerto Rico, Guam, and the Virgin Islands, have passed laws that have made it illegal to text and drive in response to the rise in these unsafe driving practices. The penalties for this are steep and include hefty fines, license suspension, a rise in auto insurance rates, or even prison time.

In California, for example, no driver can write, send, or receive text messages behind the wheel of a car, with even tougher restrictions on people under eighteen. The base fine for the first infraction is twenty dollars, the second and on is fifty dollars. However, California allows for penalty assessments which may make the total fine for texting and driving more than triple the base amount. You don’t want to pay one hundred and fifty dollars for something that puts your life at risk and is easily avoidable, do you? No.

In Texas, it is illegal to text while driving across the state. It is a ninety-nine dollar fine for the first time and up to two hundred dollars for repeat offenders. If you seriously or fatally injure someone, it is punishable by up to a year in prison and a fine up to four thousand dollars.

Of course, these fines and laws vary from place to place, but it is all a concerted effort to prevent preventable accidents and deaths. The states that do not have a blanket law that covers all drivers include Arizona and Montana. However, Arizona has a law that passed earlier in 2018 that bans drivers less than 18 this year from using their phones. In Montana, several municipalities and towns have put on a blanket ban on all cell phone usage, including Billings and Helena amongst others. We at GJEL suggest that you simply don’t use your phone in the car, and that way, you won’t have to worry about these laws.

Tips To Prevent Yourself From Being Distracted

We know it’s tempting to pull out your phone for that instant gratification. That’s why we’ve compiled a list of things that you can do to prevent or delay that instant gratification from various sources, including the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration

  1. Get an app that blocks incoming texts and calls until you’ve parked or pulled over. Most smartphones have an option to do this. At the very least, put it on silent.
  2. If you have a passenger, give them your phone and have them handle all texting and calling and music tasks until you are done driving.
  3. Reward yourself for not driving distracted. Tell yourself that you will have a cookie when you are home safe. Or give yourself a dollar every time you drive without taking your phone out to spend on something fun.
  4. Have a designated playlist for driving so that you don’t have to search for songs, use the radio, or don’t listen to music at all.
  5. Lock your phone in the trunk if you are driving.
  6. Acknowledge that there are other people in the cars around you. Knowingly driving without distraction allows you to utilize defensive driving if there is an accident looming.

Penalties for Distracted DrivingIf you do these things consistently, eventually you’ll forget about your phone during a drive and won’t even think about it.

There exists a concept or procedure in emergency medicine called triage. It is a process in which emergency medicine professionals determine which person to take care of first. The person that they always take care of first is themselves because they can take care of other people. As far as we’re concerned, that prioritization should exist while driving as well. That call or text can wait until after you’re done driving, even if it is an emergency, because you, and the people around you, are the priority in that particular case. Pull over as soon as you can if you have to. Prevent yourself from being distracted and putting yourself into a completely avoidable accident or situation and hurting yourself or other people. Don’t try to multitask, don’t text and drive. Text or drive. Multitasking is incredibly dangerous, as it can distract your brain. More on that below.

Parents, Be A Role Model

The statistics shown up above that teenagers are the most at-risk for death from texting and driving. 42% of them admit that they have texted while driving. Children are like parrots. They copy their parents all the time. We here at GJEL encourage you not to text and drive. In fact, here are some tips from us here at GJEL.

  • Studies have shown that people who are unsafe passengers and drivers are more likely to text and drive. Before you start driving, make sure that everything that you can take care of is taken care of. Make sure that everybody has their seat belt on. Model this for your children from an early age.
  • Discuss the dangers of texting and driving with your child in depth.
  • Give your child a flip phone if they need a phone and they won’t stop using their smartphones while they’re driving. Or threaten to do this and actually follow up on it if they keep doing it.

Parents, you have the chance to change your children’s lives and make them that much safer by discouraging one simple thing. Texting and driving can injure them, people in the car with them, and people around them. And can impact many others outside of that, including yourself. The same statements can be said to parents too. Have that conversation as many times as necessary with your children because it’s not just their lives they’re endangering by texting and driving. It’s other people’s lives. Other sons. Other daughters. Other husband and wives. Grandmothers and grandfathers. So on and so forth.

Teens, be Safe!

Teen Distracted Driving

Teens, you are the group that is most at-risk. Texting and driving is the leading cause of death in the United States amongst teenage drivers. Here’s some facts for you as well. As the statistics shown above, teenagers are more likely to drive and text. The National Safety Council looked at the Journal of Adolescent Health’s study on Texting/Emailing While Driving Among High School Students in 35 States and found the following statistics:

  • “38% admitted to driving and texting at least once from the previous month”
  • “Teen drivers that admitted to infrequent seat belt use were 21% more likely to text while driving”
  • “Texting while driving was much higher in rural states and in states with a lower minimum learner’s permit age”

You can read through this webpage for the other tips and information that we have, but we’ve compiled some for you specifically.

  • Don’t be cool, be safe! Texting and driving is dangerous to you, everybody in the car with you, and everybody around you. Don’t try to keep up with conversations over the phone while you’re driving.
  • Most smartphones have a do not disturb mode, you can use it to turn off notifications while you’re driving. This enables you not to even know that you’re being texted so it takes it off your brain! And therefore, stops you from checking your phone.
  • We recommend not texting at red lights, but it is better than texting while moving. If you have to text, text at a red light or pull over. We especially emphasize that you don’t text while you have a hand, a knee, or an arm on the wheel.
  • Most states have restrictions on phone usage that are harsher for teenagers. Don’t get a fine for doing something that’s already unsafe and could cost you your life or the life of those people close to you.
  • If you are driving with other people in the car, don’t be afraid to tell them to be quiet if you need to focus on driving. They have phones that they can use to entertain themselves!
  • If you’re a passenger and you see your friend using their phone while driving, don’t be afraid to ask them to put it away. If they insist on using it, ask them to pull over, get out, and then call your parents for a ride home. Your parents would much rather you be safe than in a car with someone who is drinking and driving, right? Well, the fact of the matter is that texting and driving could very well be more dangerous. Being safe takes priority.
  • Talk to your safety resource officer at school or the local police department. They have pictures of accident scenes. Many of those accidents were caused by distracted driving, some of them were caused by texting and driving. They were avoidable.

Why Can’t Drivers Multitask?

According to many experts, multitasking is a bit of a myth. The human brain does not do two things well at the same time. Instead, the brain switches back and forth from one task to the next, kind of like shutting one eye and then shutting the other. Your attention is constantly divided between two tasks, neither one of which you can do particularly well.

Furthermore, texting is not some mindless activity. Instead, you have to read the text and mentally formulate a response. This type of communication quite clearly needs all of your focus and attention. Furthermore, if you are upset by what you read, then you will be that much more distracted.

Unfortunately, the people who are the worst at multitasking are usually the people who think they excel at it. This is a recipe for disaster—especially when you try to combine texting and driving.

INSTEAD OF MULTITASKING, TRY CHUNKING

Drive SafelySo what should you do if you are driving to a meeting and need to read your text messages? Experts believe you can boost your productivity by focusing all of your attention on each task in front of you. Doing so will allow you to complete work more quickly and accurately than if your attention is divided.

For example, if you need to check your phone, pull over to a rest stop or to the side of the road. You can read and respond to all text messages at once. You should also respond to emails and return phone calls at the same time. This is called “chunking”—setting aside a chunk of time to do similar tasks and focusing only on them.

By taking care of everything at once you can focus your full attention and then put your phone away before you pull back onto the road.

Some drivers recommend using a “hands free” phone to make calls and send texts. Typically, you mount this phone on the dash or use a Bluetooth device to speak into. Think twice before pursuing this option. For one thing, these devices are rarely hands free. Instead, you usually have to push a button somewhere. Furthermore, the text or phone call will still take a good amount of your concentration. It is hard to have a complicated discussion and drive at the same time, even if both eyes are on the road and both hands are on the wheel. And ultimately, you will be distracted cognitively.

Utilizing chunking well can actually improve your results of your business calls or your responsibilities instead of trying to do two things at once and not doing both very well.

ADDITIONAL RESOURCES

  • Click here for the National Highway Traffic Safety Agency page on distracted driving (https://www.nhtsa.gov/risky-driving/d34istracted-driving)
  • Click here for the Center for Disease Control page on distracted driving (https://www.cdc.gov/motorvehiclesafety/distracted_driving/index.html)
  • Click here for the Federal Communications Comission on distracted driving (https://www.fcc.gov/consumers/guides/dangers-texting-while-driving)

INJURED BY A DISTRACTED DRIVER? SPEAK TO A CAR ACCIDENT LAWYER AT GJEL

Injured motorists can receive compensation for medical bills, lost wages, property damage, and pain and suffering when a distracted driver plows into them. At GJEL, we have experience proving that a driver was distracted. For example, we might subpoena the driver’s cell phone records to identify if they were texting or talking at the time of the collision.

If you have suffered a car accident, we want to hear from you. Please contact GJEL as soon as possible to start the process of obtaining compensation for your injuries.

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Andy Gillin

Andy Gillin received his Bachelor’s Degree from the University of California at Berkeley and his law degree from the University of Chicago. He is the managing partner of GJEL Accident Attorneys and has written and lectured in the field of plaintiffs’ personal injury law for numerous organizations. Andy is a highly recognized wrongful death lawyer in California.