By Jessica Shoulders
If you’ve driven on a public road, odds are that you have encountered a distracted driver. In 2017, the most recent year reported by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), 3,166 people were killed in motor vehicle accidents involving distracted drivers.
The NHTSA defines distracted driving as any activity that diverts attention from driving, including talking or texting on your phone, eating and drinking, talking to people in your vehicle, fiddling with the stereo, entertainment or navigation system—anything that takes your attention away from the task of safe driving. Texting or using a cell phone is one of the leading causes of distracted driving. According to the NHTSA, sending or reading a text takes your eyes off the road for five seconds. At 55 mph, that’s like driving the length of an entire football field with your eyes closed. This makes texting not only a common cause of distracted driving, but one of the most dangerous ones, as it takes your eyes away from the road much longer than other distractions.
Unfortunately, keeping an eye out for distracted drivers has become a necessary part of staying safe while on the roadway. While it is impossible to avoid all distracted drivers, there are signs you can look for to make it easier to spot and avoid drivers who are distracted while behind the wheel.
The most common signs of distracted driving are:
- Erratic movements, drifting away from the center of their lane, or sudden course corrections;
- Taking too long to proceed through an intersection with a stop sign or failing to move when a stop light turns green; and
- Sudden braking at intersections or if traffic slows.
If you notice any of these signs, stay alert and give the vehicle additional space to help avoid being involved in an accident. This remains true even if the driver temporarily appears to be driving safely, as they are likely to become distracted again if they are engaging in behaviors such as texting, eating, or looking at apps on their cell phones.
While keeping an eye out for the above behaviors can help you avoid getting into a wreck with a distracted driver, it is sometimes impossible to avoid an accident. If you are involved in a wreck and suspect the other driver was distracted, there are a few things you should do immediately:
- Let the responding police officer know that you suspect distracted driving, and give them details of any behavior you witnessed;
- Take pictures if there is any evidence that the driver may have been distracted (ex: fast food in the console or driver’s seat);
- Contact an experienced auto accident lawyer to discuss your right to file a claim against the distracted driver for any property damage or injuries you or your passengers suffered as a result of the wreck.
If you or someone you love has been injured or killed in an accident that was the result of someone else’s distracted driving, be sure you talk to an experienced attorney. Please reach out to me, attorney Jessica Shoulders, if I can help you. You can reach me at (270) 781-6500 or firstname.lastname@example.org.