Distracted Driving is deadly. According to the most recent NHTSA Traffic Safety Facts, nearly 3,200 people were killed in auto accidents involving distracted drivers. There were also just under 600 nonoccupants (pedestrians, bicyclists, etc.) killed by distracted drivers. All of these deaths were preventable; if only the driver had stayed focused on the road.
What Counts as Distracted Driving?
Distracted driving encompasses a lot of behaviors that draw a driver’s attention away from the road. These distractions fall into three groups: visual, manual, and cognitive. Visual distractions take your eyes off the road. Manual distractions take your hands off the wheel. Cognitive distractions take your mind off of driving.
The most common distractions are:
- Talking on a cell phone (even using a hands-free device)
- Manipulating cell phone (dialing, using GPS, selecting music, checking email, etc.)
- Adjusting audio &/or climate controls
- Adjusting vehicle components (GPS, moving seat, controlling door locks, interior lights, etc.)
- Eating or drinking
- Other occupants, including pets
- Outside person, object, or event (“rubbernecking”, animals on roadside, etc.)
- Reaching for an object in the vehicle
Texting is the most serious driver distraction by a wide margin since it requires manual, visual, and cognitive attention. On average, texting draws the driver’s attention away from the road for 5 seconds at a time. Talking on the cell phone, even while using a hands-free device, is also a dangerous driving distraction. NHTSA’s study showed that 14% of all fatal distraction-affected crashes involved cell phone use, accounting for 434 deaths.
North Carolina Laws for Cell Phone Use While Driving
In North Carolina, there is currently no ban on handheld phones or hands-free phones for adults age 18 and older. However, minors are prohibited from using any devices while driving. Texting is illegal for all drivers, regardless of age.
North Carolina is a “primary law” state, which means the police can stop you and fine you solely for the offense of texting and driving. In “secondary law” states, the police can not fine you unless they discover you were texting after they stop you for another primary reason.
Drivers should familiarize themselves with state laws regarding cell phone use, especially when traveling across state lines as they vary from state to state. The Governor’s Highway Safety Association’s website has a chart that outlines distracted driving laws by state.
How to Avoid Distracted Driving
It is easy to get distracted. Cell phones, music, passengers, and more are always drawing our attention away from the driving task at hand. Drivers must make conscious decisions to avoid distractions and focus on the road.
Here are some tips to avoid being distracted while driving:
- Remind yourself: Distracted driving kills. A text message or finding your favorite song isn’t worth your life or the lives of others
- Turn on your phone’s built-in “Do Not Disturb” feature as soon as you get in the car. Make it a habit, just like putting on your seatbelt
- Download a No Texting While Driving App
- Ask passengers to comply with your rules while they are in the car, which means buckle up and don’t distract you
- Designate a phone user. If you have a passenger, hand over the phone so that they can do your texting or talking for you
- Designate a navigator. If you have a passenger, hand over the GPS device so they can direct you. Even with voice-navigation, drivers tend to look at the maps for seconds at a time
- Set your GPS destination, music, seat position, and climate controls before you shift your car into drive
- Never use earphones when you are driving. It is illegal, as well as dangerous
- If you are emotionally distracted, pull over until you can compose yourself
- Know your limitations
- Take the pledge to drive phone-free today: #justdrive
Educate Your Teenager on Distracted Driving
Teenagers are most responsible for fatal distraction-affected crashes. Drivers from 15 to 19 years old are not only the most susceptible to distraction, but they are also the most inexperienced drivers. Parents cannot rely on driving instructors to convey the dangers of driving while distracted properly. There are many online resources parents can use to inform their teenagers about the consequences of distracted driving properly. It is recommended parents take it upon themselves to enforce distraction-related rules and install anti-distraction apps.
Distracted Driving Kills
Outlawing distracted behavior reduces some incidences of distracted-related accidents, but it is not a fix-all solution. Drivers must take personal responsibility and commit to not using devices while driving. Thousands of people are injured and lose their lives every year because of text messages, emails, music, and other unimportant distractions. Texting “be there soon” may prevent you from ever arriving.
Can I Sue a Distracted Driver Who Crashed into Me?
If you or a loved one have been injured or killed as a result of distracted driving, you may be entitled to compensation. If a distracted driver caused the accident, then that person is responsible for all the resulting injuries. Their responsibility includes compensation for vehicle damage, medical bills, lost income, your pain and suffering and more.
If you have been in an accident with a distracted driver and you live in Western North Carolina, contact the Asheville car accident attorneys at Fisher Stark, P.A.
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