Nationwide, distracted driving kills thousands of people each year. Efforts to cut down on distracted driving range from public service announcements to increasingly restrictive laws to try to keep driver attention on the road. But, Massachusetts, like most states, has focused those efforts largely on mobile device use.
Virtually everyone in the state, and around the country, has been educated about the dangers of texting and driving. Warnings appear on billboards, mingled with the previews at the movie theater, in high school classrooms, in social media, and anywhere else governmental bodies or advocacy groups expect people—particularly teens and young adults—to gather.
Types of Distracted Driving
There’s no disputing the fact that mobile device use on the road—texting, emailing, viewing social media posts, and even dialing phone calls—increases the risk of a traffic crash. In fact, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) says that cell phones play a role in more than 1.5 million motor vehicle accidents each year.
However, mobile device use is just one form of distracted driving, and it’s important that drivers recognize that many common activities can be hazardous behind the wheel. Some of the many additional distractions that increase the risk on the road include:
- Turning to talk to a passenger or child in the back seat
- Choosing music
- Programming GPS or looking at a map
- Eating or drinking
- Reaching for an item dropped on the floor
- Watching a movie or video
Some of these familiar behaviors may be even riskier than texting while driving. In two unrelated studies, researchers concluded that a driver who was texting was 37.5% slower to react than one who was not—and that a driver who was eating was 44% slower to react than one who was not. In other words, snacking impacted reaction time even more significantly than texting and driving.
Yet, eating and drinking behind the wheel is so commonplace that many of us don’t even recognize the dangers. Most passenger vehicles come equipped with driver’s side cup holders, and coffee is a key element in many people’s morning commute. More than 80% of respondents to an Exxon Mobile study admitted to drinking coffee or other beverages while driving.
But, any distraction behind the wheel can be dangerous, even life-threatening. A car traveling at just 30 miles per hour covers more than 200 feet in five seconds. That’s about 13 car lengths, allowing plenty of space for something to go seriously wrong. For example:
- A car swerving into your lane
- Debris appearing in the road
- A person stepping into the street
- An animal running across the road
- A car in front of you braking suddenly
Distracted Driving Accident Liability
While most drivers realize that texting and driving can have significant legal consequences, many don’t take other types of distracted driving as seriously, or may not even realize that everyday actions like drinking coffee on the drive to work result in distraction.
Distracted driving is negligence, regardless of the type of distraction. When a distracted driver causes or contributes to an accident, he or she will typically be liable for damages. When you get on the road next, remember that distractions come in many forms, and that the more fully you focus your attention on the road and the traffic and other activity around you, the safer everyone will be.
If You’ve Been Injured by a Distracted Driver, Talk to a Local Car Accident Lawyer