Car Accidents Caused By Distracted Driving

Distracted driving is one of the most common, yet preventable, causes of car accidents in Delaware and across the United States. Too often, motorists try to multi-task when they are behind the wheel. Whether that involves sending a text to a friend, answering a phone call from a colleague, or setting up the vehicle’s navigation system, all of these actions take the driver’s attention off the road.

Despite the fact that distracted driving continues to cause hundreds of thousands of serious accidents each year, many motorists fail to recognize the dangers of distracted driving. In order to reverse this dangerous trend, it is crucial that motorists understand some of the common causes of distracted driving, the penalties associated with distracted driving accidents, and proactive steps people can take to avoid them. If a motorist is injured in a distracted driving accident, a lawyer can review the details of the case and recommend the best legal course of action.

What are the Different Types of Distractions?

Operating a motor vehicle is a major responsibility. In addition to following the rules of the road and maintaining a safe driving speed, motorists must pay attention to other drivers in the vicinity and be able to react quickly to unexpected traffic changes and road conditions. If a motorist’s attention is distracted for even a few seconds, the risk of a serious accident increases significantly.

Research indicates that the brain can only process a certain amount of information at one time. When a driver tries to multi-task while driving, it has a negative impact on their reaction time and spatial processing. For example, talking on the phone while driving can cause a motorist to drift out of their lane or miss a turn, which can lead to a serious collision. Any behavior, action, or activity that causes a motorist to take their attention away from the road is considered a distraction. The following are the three main categories of distracted driving:

  • Manual distractions: This is anything that causes the driver to remove their hands from the wheel, including eating, drinking, or reaching for something on the floor or in the back seat.
  • Visual distractions: This is anything that causes the driver to take their eyes off the road. This includes reading a text message, checking the navigation device, or checking on the backseat passengers in the rearview mirror.
  • Cognitive distractions: These include anything that causes the motorist to take their mind off of the road and the task of driving. This includes thinking about something other than driving, like items that the driver needs to pick up at the grocery store or having an in-depth conversation with another passenger in the vehicle.

What are the Most Common Causes of Distracted Driving Accidents?

When it comes to distracted driving, most people think about talking on the phone and texting while driving. Those are certainly two top causes of distracted driving accidents. In fact, the National Safety Council (NSC) estimates that over 25 percent of all car accidents involve cellphones. It is also important for motorists to understand that it only takes approximately five seconds to send or read a text message. If the motorists is travelling at a speed of 55 miles per hour, that is comparable to driving the entire length of a football field.

In addition to talking and texting on the phone, there are a number of other common causes of distracted driving accidents, including the following:

  • Setting up the navigation system. While navigation systems provide clear directions and alternate routes if there are road closures, car accidents, or construction, they can take the driver’s attention off the road, particularly if the motorist enters the address of their destination while they are driving. Motorists should always enter this information into the system before hitting the road, and make sure that the system’s volume is turned up so that they do not need to constantly look at the screen for directions.
  • Adjusting the car controls. Whether changing the radio station or adjusting the temperature in the car, this requires the driver to focus on the vehicle’s controls rather than on the road. Even if the driver’s attention is off the road for a matter of seconds, that is all it takes to cause a serious distracted driving accident.
  • Putting on makeup. Applying mascara, lipstick, or any other type of grooming is dangerous because a driver takes their hands off the wheel and their attention off the road.
  • Interacting with other passengers. Parents scolding children who are misbehaving in the back seat can be very distracting. Teenagers talking to rowdy passengers can also be distracting. The driver should have their focus on the road.
  • Reaching for something in the backseat. If the driver reaches for a water bottle, a purse, or their phone in the back seat, it can be very dangerous. Not only is the driver’s attention off the road, but it means that both hands are not on the steering wheel.
  • Motorists may start daydreaming when driving, particularly if they have a long commute or are driving for several hours. This is a common example of a cognitive distraction.

What are the Penalties of Distracted Driving?

In Delaware and throughout the United States, distracted driving laws are meant to dissuade motorists from texting and talking on the phone or engaging in any other distracted behaviors while driving. It is illegal to text or use a handheld device while driving. There are additional restrictions for newly licensed teenage drivers as well.

In Delaware, if a motorist is caught texting or talking on the phone while driving, they will be fined. The amount of the fine is dependent on whether it is a first, second, third, or a subsequent offense. There are two types of enforcement that police officers can use if a motorist is suspected of distracted driving, including the following:

  • Primary enforcement: This means that a police officer can stop a motorist if the officer sees they are violating state distracted driving laws.
  • Secondary enforcement: This law means that a police officer may only cite a motorist for violating distracted driving laws if they break another law while doing so.

Delaware follows the primary enforcement, which means that a police officer can stop a motorist if they see the motorist talk or text on the phone while driving, even if the driver is obeying all of the rules of the road and appears to be in control of the vehicle.

What Should I Do if I am Injured in a Distracted Driving Accident?

Like any other car accident, there are a number of important steps that a motorist should take if they are injured in a distracted driving accident. If the vehicles are in the path of traffic, the motorists should safely move their cars if they are physically able to do so. Once the motorists are out of harm’s way, it is important to call 911 so that dispatch can send police officers and paramedics to the accident scene.

Even if a motorist does not have any obvious injuries, it is crucial that they are examined by the paramedics in order to ensure that there are no underlying injuries. Failing to get medical attention can also work against the person if they plan to file a personal injury claim.

It is also very important for a motorist to collect as much evidence from the accident scene as possible, including photographs of the damage to the vehicle, injuries, skid marks or debris on the road, and any other evidence that may help determine the cause of the accident. If there are witnesses at the scene, ask if they are willing to provide statements, and obtain their contact information.

Frequently Asked Questions

If a motorist was injured in a car accident and they suspect that the other driver was distracted at the time of the crash, there are a number of ways to prove that a driver was distracted, including the following:

  • Gather evidence. Take pictures of the accident scene as soon as possible. If the other motorist has a cellphone in their hands or on the seat and the screen is on, it may indicate that they were using the phone at the time of the collision. In addition, if there is evidence that the driver was eating, putting on makeup, or any other type of distracted behavior, take pictures.
  • Obtain cellphone records. With help from a lawyer, it may be possible to obtain the person’s cellphone records to prove that they were talking on the phone, texting, or checking social media at the time of the accident.
  • Check the driver’s social media activity. Certain social media activities may be logged and timestamped online. Depending on the circumstances of the case, the victim may consider hiring an expert who can look into the at-fault party’s presence on social media and whether they had an online presence at the time of the accident.
  • Vehicle data. Many modern vehicles come equipped with computer equipment that is capable of recording a driver’s activity, including how fast the car was travelling and whether the driver was adjusting any of the controls at the time of the accident.
  • Witness testimony. This is one of the most effective ways to prove that another motorist was distracted at the time of the accident. Potential witnesses can include passengers in either of the vehicles involved, pedestrians, bicyclists, or bystanders who saw the accident happen.
  • Gather the police report. An official police report may include key information that will help prove that the other driver was distracted, including whether or not the at-fault driver admitted to texting and whether the police officer found evidence on the confiscated cellphone.
  • Surveillance footage. Traffic cameras or security surveillance systems in homes or businesses in the vicinity may record footage of the accident. The at-fault driver may be seen texting, talking, or engaged in other distracted driving behaviors at the time of the accident.
  • Hire an accident reconstruction specialist. If the situation warrants it, an outside accident reconstruction specialist may be hired to collect key forensic evidence that can help strengthen the injured victim’s case and prove fault.

If the victim of a distracted driving accident wishes to pursue a personal injury lawsuit, they must do so within two years of the date of the collision. This deadline also applies to a wrongful death claim if the accident resulted in a fatality. However, with a wrongful death claim, the clock officially starts running on the day of the victim’s death rather than the date that the accident occurred. If the injured victim filed a lawsuit after the statute of limitations has passed, it is highly likely that the case will be dismissed and the claim denied.

Comparative negligence means that more than one party may be held liable for an accident. Delaware is a modified comparative negligence state, which means that if a motorist is partly to blame for an accident, the financial damages they will be eligible to collect will be reduced by their percentage of fault.

In addition, if it is determined that the injured party is more than 50 percent liable, they will not be able to recover any damages from the other driver. It is highly recommended that the injured party discuss their case with an experienced car accident lawyer who can examine the details of the case and protect the victim’s legal rights.

Delaware Car Accident Lawyers at Rhoades & Morrow Represent Victims of Distracted Driving Accidents

If you or a loved one was seriously injured in a collision that involved a distracted driver, do not hesitate to contact the dedicated Delaware car accident lawyers at Rhoades & Morrow. We will assist you with every phase of the claims process, address all of your questions and concerns, and ensure that your rights are protected. To schedule a free, confidential consultation, call us today at (302) 427-9500 or contact us online. Located in Wilmington, Bear, and Milford, Delaware, we serve clients throughout Middletown, Dover, Milford, Lewes, Rehoboth, Elsmere, and Seaford.

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