Navigational devices, also called Global Positioning Systems (GPS), have become one of the biggest distractions for drivers. According to an AAA study, programming navigation is even more distracting than texting while driving, an activity that, owing to its inherent danger, has been made illegal in New Jersey and in most U.S. states. It is therefore important for drivers to understand how they can safely use a navigational device and avoid getting in distracted driving accidents. Motorists who are involved in an accident caused by a driver distracted by a navigational device are urged to contact an experienced car accident lawyer for assistance.
The Dangers of Distracted Driving
Driving distractions include anything that takes a driver’s attention off the road. Some examples of distractions are talking to other passengers, eating, fiddling with the radio, reaching for an object in the vehicle, texting, talking on the phone, and programming an address into a navigational device. Whenever drivers are engaged in other activities, their attention is not on the road as it should be and their risk of getting in a car accident increases.
Distracted driving claimed the lives of 1,730 drivers, 605 passengers, 400 pedestrians, and 77 bicyclists in 2018 alone, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). The NHTSA reports that approximately 3,000 people are killed and 400,000 people in the U.S. are injured each year in crashes involving distracted drivers. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) breaks down this statistic even further. Each day in the United States, nine people are killed and more than 1,000 are injured in distracted driving accidents.
Types of Distractions
The NHTSA explains that the wide array of distractions can be categorized into three main types, according to how they affect drivers. The agency uses police reports to identify crashes in which driver distraction is involved, meaning that a driver lost their focus on safe control of their vehicle as a result of one of these types of distractions:
- Manual: This type of distraction involves tasks that require a driver to take his or her hands off the steering wheel, such as manipulating an object or device, reaching for an object, eating, or applying makeup.
- Visual: These distracting tasks require a driver to look away from the road to focus on something else, such as a mirror, a passenger, or Google Maps.
- Cognitive: Cognitive distractions involve tasks that take a driver’s mind off the road, such as when he or she is engaged in a heated conversation, listening to a podcast, or daydreaming.
According to the NHTSA, texting is one of the most dangerous distractions because it diverts a driver’s attention in all three ways: manually, visually, and cognitively. The agency reports that when traveling at 55 miles per hour, a driver taking their eyes off the road for five seconds is like driving the length of an entire football field without looking. This is particularly alarming considering that the risk of a crash doubles when a driver takes his or her eyes off the road for just two seconds, according to NHTSA research.
Why is It Dangerous to Use a GPS While Driving?
Like texting, using a navigational device while driving is dangerous; it also involves a manual, visual, and cognitive distraction. The recent AAA study concludes that it is even more dangerous than texting because it requires drivers to take their attention off the road for longer periods of time. According to researchers, programming navigation takes an average of 40 seconds to complete, and then it takes the brain another 13 seconds to refocus on driving.
For the study, AAA commissioned researchers at the University of Utah to review infotainment systems in 30 different 2017 vehicles. Participants used voice, touch screen, and other interactive technologies to complete four types of tasks: making a call, sending a text message, tuning the radio, and programming navigation while driving.
Researchers measured which tasks were the most distracting based on the level of manual, visual, and cognitive demand it placed on the drivers. They found that the most distracting task was programming a navigational device, followed by texting. Tuning the radio and making calls were the least distracting tasks, requiring about the same level of overall demand.
Even voice-based technology is not as safe as drivers may have previously thought. University of Utah researchers found that using both touchscreen and voice-based technology caused drivers in the study to become distracted, whether manually, visually, or cognitively, for more than 24 seconds.
How to Use a Navigational Device Safely
According to AAA, one in three U.S. adults use infotainment systems while driving. AAA’s public relations manager cautions that just because in-vehicle technology is available does not mean it is safe to use. Considering the association’s recent findings, it is crucial for drivers to learn how to use a navigational device safely to lower their risk of being involved in a distracted driving crash. The following are some tips to use these systems safely:
- Program the GPS before driving: Drivers should plan their trip before leaving the house. Motorists should know how to use the device and enter the destination address prior to getting on the road to avoid unnecessary distraction.
- Position the navigational device at eye level: Keeping the GPS at eye level can minimize the time a driver has to look away from the road. Many vehicles already have navigational devices installed at the appropriate level, but those who rely on their phone’s GPS should ensure that their phone is mounted securely and at eye level.
- Keep the sound on: Many drivers mute the sound on navigational devices so they can listen to music or not have to hear the voice directions. However, this is dangerous because it requires drivers to look at the device more frequently, taking their visual attention off the road and increasing their chances of getting in a car accident.
- Pull over to program: A driver who experiences any difficulty with their navigational device should pull over before attempting to fix it; any new addresses or changes to routes should be not be programmed while driving. If there is a passenger in the vehicle, drivers may ask that the passenger handles the GPS during the drive.
- Make sure the GPS is up to date: Tragically, accidents happen because of outdated navigational systems. When drivers are unfamiliar with an area, they may follow GPS directions into dangerous locations; therefore, they should regularly check for updates to ensure the system’s accuracy.
- Pay attention to the road: Drivers should not rely too heavily on their navigational devices. They still need to pay attention to the road and be aware of their surroundings. Keeping a lookout for traffic signs, construction zones, accidents, or any other roadblocks not recognized by the navigational device can help minimize the risk of getting in a car accident.
New Jersey Distracted Driving Laws
In New Jersey, it is illegal to text while driving; rather, drivers must use hands-free technology. The state Division of Highway Traffic Safety reports that from 2012 to 2016, nearly 800,000 distracted driving crashes occurred in New Jersey. To reduce the amount of injuries and deaths caused by distracted drivers, those found guilty of distracted driving in New Jersey may be subject to legal consequences. First-time offenders will face a fine of up to $400, whereas third offenders will receive a fine of up to $800 in addition to three license points and potential driver’s license suspension.
Additionally, an at-fault driver who causes serious injury to another may be liable for that person’s damages in a personal injury lawsuit, including pain and suffering. However, because New Jersey is a no-fault car insurance state, victims must typically go through their own insurance to obtain compensation for medical bills and other economic losses, regardless of who was at fault for the crash. Those who are injured in car accidents involving distracted drivers should contact an experienced car accident attorney as soon as possible to discuss their options.
Freehold Car Accident Lawyers at Ellis Law Seek Compensation for Those Injured in Distracted Driving Accidents
If you were injured in a distracted driving accident, contact a Freehold car accident lawyer at Ellis Law. Our skilled legal team will evaluate your case, investigate the cause of your accident, and help you recover the compensation to which you are entitled. Call us at 732-308-0200 or contact us online for a free consultation. Located in Freehold, New Jersey, we serve clients throughout East Brunswick, Toms River, Middletown, Jersey City, Neptune, Hudson County, Union County, Essex County, and Ocean County, as well as Brooklyn and New York, New York.