In 2018, distracted driving took the lives of 2,841 people. Among those killed were 1,730 drivers, 605 passengers, 400 pedestrians, and 77 bicyclists. These National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) statistics show a 12 percent decrease in fatal car accidents related to distracted driving from 2017 to 2018 but prove that distracted driving is still a major problem on highways.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimate that nine people are killed, and another 1,000 people are injured by distracted drivers each day in the United States. Distracted driving is defined as any behavior requires a driver to take their attention off the road. Because distracted driving behaviors are related to a conscious decision made by the driver, this type of car accident is the most preventable type of crash that results in serious and often fatal injuries.
Drivers who engage in cell phone usage, eating, drinking, reaching for objects, or tending to passengers in the car make a conscious decision to divert their attention away from the task of driving safely. Distracted drivers can be held liable for injuries, death, and property damage that occur when a car accident results from their reckless and negligent behavior.
What are the Most Common Types of Distracted Driving?
There are many types of distracted driving behaviors that lead to serious and often fatal car accidents. The following are the most common types:
- Cell phone usage: Cell phones are commonly used for making calls, texting, and accessing navigational systems. When a driver picks up their phone for any reason, they are willingly choosing to distract themselves from the task of driving. Catastrophic injuries and fatalities are common in this type of distracted driving accident.
- Eating and drinking while driving: Many drivers eat or drink while driving. The risk of a driver or passenger choking or spilling food presents an even higher risk for this type of distracted driving car accident.
- Passenger distraction: Family, friends, and even pets often accompany drivers. Children crying, siblings arguing, heated discussions with an adult, or even an excited or carsick pet can require the driver to take their eyes and attention off the road. It is imperative that drivers securely fasten all children in their seat belts and enforce appropriate behavior, limit intense conversations with other passengers, and secure pets in crates so that their attention remains on the task of driving.
- Attending infotainment systems: Car infotainment systems have become sophisticated and provide quality audio, navigation, and entertainment options. These can become deadly distractions. Drivers who take their attention from the road to use these systems leave themselves prone to distracted driving car accidents.
- Personal grooming: Looking in the mirror to tend to personal grooming requires drivers to divert their attention from driving. This leaves them vulnerable to a serious or fatal car accident. It is safer to complete personal grooming routines at home than risk injury or death.
- Reaching for objects: Reaching for something while driving may seem harmless, but the driver will often have to take their eyes off the road to fetch the object. The few seconds this takes is just enough time to cause the driver to rear-end another vehicle, run off the road, or veer head-on into oncoming traffic.
What are the Most Common Types of Accidents and Injuries from Distracted Driving?
There are a variety of car accidents caused by distracted driving. The most common types include:
- Head-on collisions
- Rear-end collisions
- Running off the road
- Running through traffic lights and stop signs
- Colliding with vehicles in adjacent lanes
- Rollover accidents
- Hitting objects, such as trees, telephone poles, and parked cars
- Multi-vehicle accidents
- Pedestrian accidents
In any of these situations, serious and often fatal injuries can occur, such as:
- Traumatic brain injury
- Head and neck injuries
- Spinal and back injuries
- Fractured bones
- Leg and arm injuries
- Shoulder injuries
- Internal organ damage
- Burn injuries
- Soft tissue damage
- Facial injuries and disfigurement
- Post-traumatic stress disorder
Any of these injuries can result in costly medical bills that include emergency care, hospitalization, surgery, ongoing physical and cognitive therapy, and temporary or permanent disability. These costs added to lost wages due to disability and long recovery periods can quickly devastate the
victim’s financial well-being and that of their family. Compensation from a successful distracted driving car accident lawsuit can help relieve the financial burden placed on the victim.
Laws Against Distracted Driving
As distracted driving car accidents increased over the past decade, so too have laws against distracted driving. Penalties for engaging in distracted driving behaviors carry stiff penalties, including hefty fines and jail time. States have approached distracted driving laws in a variety of ways, but most states have specifically outlawed any type of cell phone usage while driving. Texting, talking on the phone without a hands-free device, and interacting with a navigation system while driving are all illegal actions in most states.
In recent years, distracted driving laws have focused on restrictions and penalties for certain classes of drivers, including:
- Teenage Drivers: Teenagers are well known for taking risks behind the wheel. Speeding, having too many passengers in a vehicle, and cell phone usage are common teenage violations. Educational campaigns, parental controls, electronic monitoring devices, and stiff penalties helped reduce the number of teenage distracted driving accidents, but the number of serious and fatal car accidents among this age group is still a large problem. Loss of driving privileges and parental fines imposed on parents of teenage distracted drivers have been the most effective penalties to enforce.
- School Bus Drivers: Without a doubt, school bus drivers have the legal responsibility to transport our children. The laws against distracted driving carry heavy penalties for school bus drivers who engage in using cell phones, navigation systems, or other forms of distracted driving. When a school bus accident occurs as a result of distracted driving, the consequences can be catastrophic. Penalties for school bus drivers include loss of driving privileges, significant financial fines, and prison in accidents involving serious injury or death.
- Commercial Truck Drivers: Anytime a commercial truck collides with a passenger vehicle, there is a potential for catastrophic injuries and death. Commercial truck drivers who engage in distracted driving behaviors endanger all those on the road. Penalties for injuries and deaths caused by a commercial truck diver’s distracted driving are severe. The truck driver, fleet owner, and trucking company can all be held liable for injuries and fatalities.
How Can I Claim Compensation for Injuries?
Proving that a car accident was caused by distracted driving is not always easy. The burden of proof falls on the victim of the accident. A qualified and reputable car accident lawyer can gather the pertinent evidence needed to prove that the driver responsible for the crash was engaged in distracted driving behavior. The lawyer can subpoena the driver’s cell phone records, call for witnesses to testify about the driver’s actions, and obtain evidence from the accident scene that proves the driver’s negligent and reckless behavior.
Distracted driving accident victims can claim compensation for their injuries and all medical expenses related to their injuries. Victims can also claim compensation for lost wages that would have been earned by the victim had the accident not happened. Temporary and permanent disability can reduce the earning potential of a victim and may make them eligible to claim a percentage of what they would have earned had they not become disabled. In some cases, victims can claim compensation for their pain and suffering related to the accident.
New Jersey Car Accident Lawyers at Ellis Law Help Victims of Distracted Driving Accidents Claim Compensation
If you or someone you love was injured by a distracted driver, you may be entitled to compensation. The New Jersey car accident lawyers at Ellis Law are dedicated to helping distracted driving accident victims claim the justice and maximum amount of compensation they are entitled to under the law. Call us today at 732-308-0200 or contact us online to schedule a free consultation. Centrally 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.