With April being National Distracted Driving Awareness Month, it becomes important to remind ourselves about the significant and often devastating consequences driver distraction can have on our roadways. According to the National Safety Council, which leads efforts to educate the public and raise awareness about critical safety issues facing the public, distracted driving has become increasingly common throughout the country. It is also playing a significant role in recent spikes in roadway injuries and fatalities.
Estimates recently released by the National Safety Council have revealed sharp surges in distraction-related traffic accidents. For instance, the council reported the following data:
- 2016 saw approximately 40,000 traffic deaths nationwide – a 6 percent increase over 2015.
- The 40,000 roadway fatalities were a 14 percent increase compared to 2014, the largest increase in deaths on record in a two year span.
- There was a 7 percent increase in auto accident injuries in 2016 compared to 2015.
As personal injury lawyers who represent victims of car accidents throughout Beaumont and the state of Texas, our legal team at The Daspit Law Firm has seen the tragic consequences of driver distraction first hand. When distracted motorists fail to uphold their legal duty of making driving their primary task and fail to keep others free from preventable harm, we help the victims they hurt exercise their legal right to file personal injury lawsuits and pursue financial compensation for their damages, including their pain and suffering, emotional injuries, medical expenses, and more.
Because distracted driving has become such as serious problem, it becomes the responsibility of all drivers to avoid critical distractions. This especially includes texting and using a cell phone, which can increase crash risks substantially because they command the visual, mental, and manual attention of a driver simultaneously. To limit these risks, many drivers use hands-free mobile devices, such as Bluetooth or a headset. Unfortunately, hands-free does not mean risk-free.
Drivers may think they are avoiding distraction when they use a hands-free device, but risks still remain. Here’s why:
- Drivers who talk on cell phones using a hands-free device are still diverting their cognitive attention away from driving and on a conversation with another person or multiple people. This can limit their ability to make the right driving decisions or react to potential hazards, especially if a conversation becomes intense or heated.
- Researchers have found that conversations cause drivers to visually imagine what they are talking about. This imagery, while in their head, competes with what’s on the road and seen by drivers for processing resources in the brain. Researchers have also noted that conversations can create visual tunneling, which causes motorists to focus their vision on just a small portion of the road directly in front of them, limiting their peripheral vision and ability to scan.
- Hands-free devices still allow drivers to use their hands during a conversation. As you may have seen before, some drivers will make gestures when talking on the phone, taking their hands away from the wheel and increasing crash risks.
- Drivers may search for numbers, dial numbers in their phone, or set up a hands-free device prior to making or accepting a call. This means that when they do so, they using their hands, eyes, and mental attention on something other than driving.
Texas, like many other states, does enforce laws that relate to cell phone use. However, many experts believe they fall short in protecting the public from distracted drivers. For example, Texas only prohibits cell phone use (both handheld and hands-free) for novice drivers and school bus drivers. All other motorists can still use handheld and hands-free devices. Texas is also one of only a handful of states that does not have a statewide ban on text messaging behind the wheel.
Although Texas has work to do in improving distracted driving laws, drivers can do their part to avoid distractions whenever they get behind the wheel. Unfortunately, as statistics make clear, distracted driving will likely remain a serious concern on our roadways, and will likely continue to injure and kill innocent people in preventable wrecks. When these tragedies happen, The Daspit Law Firm is prepared to help victims and families hold the at-fault driver fully accountable for the harm they have caused.
If you or someone you love has been hurt in a car accident, including wrecks caused by distracted motorists, do not hesitate to work with the proven legal representation you need to protect your rights. Contact The Daspit Law Firm today for a FREE consultation with a Beaumont car accident lawyer.