In today's fast paced world, it seems there are a million things competing for our attention. However, when it comes to getting behind the wheel, distraction can be deadly. The National Safety Council observes April as Distracted Driving Awareness Month to bring awareness to the dangers associated with distracted driving behaviors.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) recently released a summary of statistical findings from 2015 regarding the prevalence of distracted driving. The agency found that there were 3,477 people killed and an estimated additional 391,000 people injured in motor vehicle accidents involving distracted drivers. Although most of the fatalities in distracted driving crashes were the driver, 551 deaths were pedestrians, bicyclists, and other nonoccupants.
What Is Distracted Driving?
The NHTSA uses the term distracted driving to refer to any behavior that takes the driver's attention away from the road. Examples include:
- Texting, or making or receiving calls on a cellular phone
- Adjusting the car's stereo or climate controls
- Reaching for objects in the vehicle such as a phone, tablet, laptop, or purse
- Eating or drinking
- Being distracted by an outside person or event
Although cell phone use while driving gets the most attention, it should be noted that any behavior that takes your focus from the road is dangerous. The act of being distracted behind the wheel is risky regardless of the reason.
How Often Is Distracted Driving a Factor in Auto Accidents?
Despite efforts to educate drivers about the importance of giving the road their full attention, distracted driving continues to be a significant public safety issue. Consider the following NHTSA findings:
- 14% of all police reported property-damage-only crashes had distracted driving as a contributing factor
- 15% of injury crashes involved distracted drivers
- 10% of fatal crashes involved distracted drivers
These rates are similar to those found in previous years. Compared to 2014, the rate of fatal crashes remained unchanged. Injury crashes decreased from 18% in 2014, while property-damage-only crashes decreased from 15% in 2014.
It's possible that the rate of distracted driving crashes may actually be higher than what the NHTSA found, since police reporting procedures vary by jurisdiction, and many law enforcement officers rely on the driver or passenger self-reporting of the events before the crash.
Who Is More Likely to Engage in Distracted Driving?
Distracted driving is dangerous because it only takes a second or two of not paying attention to cause an accident. The NHTSA found that distracted driving is most common in the following groups:
- Men. 68% of the distracted drivers in fatal crashes were male, as compared to 73% of all drivers in fatal crashes.
- Daytime Drivers. 58% of distracted drivers involved in fatal crashes were driving from 6:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m., as compared to 53% of drivers in all fatal crashes.
- Drivers in their 20s. Drivers in their 20s account for 24% of drivers in all fatal crashes; however, they make up 27% of distracted drivers and 33% of the distracted drivers who were using cell phones in fatal crashes.
Compensation Is Available for Distracted Driving Accidents
If you've been hurt in an accident caused by a distracted driver, you're entitled to compensation for your medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering. You can seek compensation even if you're determined to be partially at fault for the accident, although your settlement will be reduced by your assigned percentage of fault.
Car insurance companies are often in no hurry to settle claims resulting from distracted driving accidents, which is why it's best to hire a skilled attorney who can advocate for your needs throughout the process. To learn more about pursuing a personal injury claim, please call Neblett, Beard & Arsenault to schedule a free, no-obligation initial case review.