Distracted driving is defined as engaging in any activity that takes your attention off the road when you are operating a motor vehicle. In short, if you are driving, your entire focus should be on this task. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) considers things like texting, reading, looking at a map, adjusting a radio or GPS tool, watching a video, eating, drinking, using a phone, putting on makeup, shaving, or talking to passengers to be distractions. This is only a partial list; there are many things can take your attention away from driving. As car accident attorneys in Columbia, we have seen and heard far too many stories of those injured or killed by distracted drivers.
Most people have seen the public service announcements with movie and television stars promising not to text while driving. And maybe you have wondered why it’s such a big deal – after all, most of us have been guilty at some point of driving while engaging in the activities listed above. Research shows that distracted driving accounts for numerous injury and fatal crashes each year. Here are some statistics from the NHTSA to make you think:
- In 2011 in the United States, 3,331 people were killed in crashes attributed to distracted driving; another 387,000 were injured.
- Distracted driving accounted for 10% of all injury crashes.
- Teens age 15-19 were the group with the highest fatality rate in distracted driving crashes (specifically the use of mobile devices) at 21%.
- Of the activities above, texting while driving is thought to be the highest risk because it requires the driver’s “visual, manual and cognitive” attention.
Distracted driving laws often differ by state, and can differ by county or city; these laws are updated on a regular basis. As of the time of the writing of this post, in South Carolina, Columbia bans texting while driving but there is no statewide ban. South Carolina does recognize distracted driving as a contributing factor in crashes. North Carolina prohibits all drivers from texting or emailing while driving; in addition, provisional drivers and bus drivers are not permitted to use cell phones while driving.
So what can you do to help prevent more injuries or deaths due to distracted driving? If you are driving, commit to focusing your full attention on the road and your surroundings. Get up earlier and eat breakfast before you leave so you aren’t distracted in the car. Call your friend when you get home instead of in the car on the drive home. Whatever tasks you think need to be done immediately can generally wait until you get to your destination. You should also assume that at least some others on the road around you are distracted and drive defensively.
While we love our clients, we would prefer to have everyone safe. If you have been injured in a car accident in South Carolina, North Carolina or Georgia caused by a distracted driver or due to any other factor, call us today and talk with a Columbia, SC car wreck attorney to schedule a free consultation so you may learn your rights.