With too much to do and too little time, multitasking has become a way of life for most Americans. Some say it detracts from the quality and overall enjoyment of life, and others scorn at those who can or will only do one thing at a time. No matter what your outlook on the value and appropriateness of multitasking in everyday life, it is a fact that multitasking and driving is a deadly combination.
The big culprits causing a rise of automobile accidents are handheld devices. Talking on cell phones, text messaging, and checking email are non-stop activities in our culture and many people see no reason why mundane necessities, such as driving, eating, or grocery shopping, should be cause to put these activities on hold. Most of us have been annoyed by rude and inconsiderate people talking loudly on their cell phones while we attempt to enjoy a quiet meal at a restaurant, or have been run over by shoppers too involved in their phone conversation to pay attention to their surroundings. When this level of distraction is taken behind the wheel the results can quickly escalate from irritating to deadly.
Drunk drivers caused 16,885 fatalities in the U.S. in 2005. Legally acceptable blood alcohol levels are getting lower and penalties for driving while intoxicated are increasing. However, in 2002 researcher in the U.K. found that drivers using handheld cell phones had a significantly slower reaction time than intoxicated drivers. Currently there are few laws against talking on a cell phone while driving.
We encounter many potential distractions while driving, but most of them can be ignored or temporarily set aside. Listening to the radio can present a distraction, and accidents have occurred when drivers are busy changing channels or swapping out CD’s, but for the most part, radio does not require a response, interaction, or thinking. Drivers automatically tune out the radio and switch their attention to road conditions without delayed response time.
Most crashes caused by cell phone use involve striking an object from behind or leaving the lane of traffic, rarely do they follow the normal patterns of accidents which include collisions in intersections, being rear ended, and rollover accidents. While hands-free cell phone conversations appear to be somewhat safer, they still cause significant distraction.
Why is a cell phone conversation different from talking to someone who is in the vehicle?
Conversations with vehicle occupants are vastly different from cell phone conversations, because other occupants are aware of and responding to traffic conditions along with the driver. Subtle changes in traffic and road conditions will automatically result in corresponding changes in the flow of conversation.
Proving the element of cell phone use in an accident can be challenging. Currently there is little statistical data on the correlation between cell phone use and accidents for the same reasons that it can be hard to prove in court. Cell phone use is rarely included in police reports of accidents because there are still few laws against using a cell phone while driving. Drivers rarely admit to and often try to hide the fact that they have been on the phone when an accident occurred. Cell phone records can be difficult to understand, and do not always accurately reflect the time of a call. Cell phone companies typically do not keep call records for very long. If action is not taken quickly the records may no longer exist.
If you are involved in an accident which you believe may have been caused by a distracted driver, notify law enforcement officers who arrive at the scene, get statements from all potential witnesses and ask them if they saw the other driver using a cell phone or other device, and alert your attorney right away.
If you or loved one is injured or killed in an auto accident caused by a distracted driver, contact an experienced auto accident attorney today.