The Legal Implications of Distracted Driving

The number of fatal auto accidents has increased drastically over the years.  The U.S. Census reported in 2009 that there were over 10 million reported auto accidents, of which approximately 33,000 resulted in death.  In 2013, the CDC reported that auto accidents were the fourth leading cause of death in the United States, with more than 130,000 fatalities reported.

The impact of distracted driving

According to the NHTSA, distracted driving has become a major highway safety concern.  In 2013 alone, more than 3,000 people were killed as a result of distracted driving.  The use of cell phones has increased exponentially over the years.  In October 2014, it was estimated that 64% of adults in the United States owned a smartphone.  Although the campaign to stop texting and driving has been significant, it is only a start.  Cell phone use is only one form of distracted driving.

What is distracted driving?

In reality, any activity that diverts a driver’s attention from the main task of driving is considered a distraction and inherently endangers the driver, passengers and all others on the roadway. Distractions can also include eating and drinking, talking to passengers, grooming, using a GPS and adjusting the radio or other electronics.  With these distractions, the driver’s ability to pay attention to the primary tasks of controlling and navigating the vehicle, as well as responding to critical events, is seriously compromised.  In other words, anything that takes your eyes off the road, your mind off your driving or your hands off the wheel, is a distraction.  So, working your GPS would fall into all three categories of distraction.

Why is driver distraction such an important safety issue?

According to the NHTSA, there are two basic components of the distraction safety problem: the nature of the demand for attention that a distracting task creates, and the frequency with which drivers make the choice to, essentially, multitask while driving.  The more demands on your attention that the distraction requires (i.e., visual, cognitive and manual distraction), the higher the risk of an accident.  Compound that with how often a driver engages in these distracting tasks, then even an easy task can create a larger safety problem than you may consider.

Alabama’s current cell phone laws

Most states have already enacted laws against certain distracting behaviors, in an effort to curb the rise in distracted driving accidents.  In Alabama, there is currently no ban on hand held cell phone use, except for drivers age 16 or 17, who have held an Intermediate license for less than 6 months.  There is a texting and driving ban in Alabama that covers all drivers.

If you have questions regarding distracted driving laws, or any other personal injury matters, please contact the experienced attorneys at Means Gillis Law, PC, either online or by calling toll free at 1-844-870-1777.

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