With the increased use of cell phones and mobile electronic devices while driving, the number of distracted driving accidents is also going up. In the past, distracted driving meant a driver might be focused on changing radio stations or talking with a passenger instead of on the road. Nowadays, distracted driving can include reading or sending text messages, dialing a phone, or talking on a cell phone while behind the wheel. Whatever the distraction may be, the consequences of distracted driving are often tragic.
Attorneys at Patterson Dahlberg have extensive experience representing clients who have been affected by distracted driving crashes, ensuring victims receive the compensation they are entitled to and holding distracted drivers accountable for their actions. We have the resources and expertise to thoroughly investigate your distracted driving car accident and help you through this stressful time.
What is Distracted Driving?
Distracted driving (also called inattentive driving) occurs when a driver engages in any activity that can take their focus off of driving, increasing their risk of a crash. This can involve anything that even momentarily takes the driver’s focus off the road, including talking with passengers, eating, reading maps, checking text messages, putting on makeup, and switching radio stations. A driver’s duty is to focus solely on the task of driving. Failure to do so can be deadly for them, their passengers, and other people using the road.
The Centers for Disease Control notes that there are three types of driver distraction:
Visual: when the driver’s eyes are off the road
Manual: when the driver’s hands are no longer on the steering wheel
Cognitive: when the driver’s mind is not focused on driving.
Although any distraction can have catastrophic consequences, texting while driving is the riskiest behavior because it involves all three types of distraction. The driver’s eyes are on the cell phone, at least one hand is off the wheel, and their mind is on the text message.
Distracted Driving Statistics
According to the Minnesota Department of Public Safety, Office of Traffic Safety, between 2013 and 2017, distracted or inattentive driving was a contributing factor in one-fifth of all road crashes in the state, resulting in approximately 53 deaths and 216 serious injuries annually.
Nationally, distracted driving claims thousands of lives annually, with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reporting that in 2016, 3,450 deaths were linked to driving while distracted. In 2015, 319,000 people were injured in motor vehicle accidents in which distracted driving was a factor. The NHTSA also reports that during daylight hours, almost 500,000 drivers use their cell phones while operating a motor vehicle.
Distracted driving crashes appear to be increasing in frequency, with figures from the NHTSA showing that in 2010 there were 3,092 distracted driving deaths, compared with 3,450 in 2016.
Youth are particularly at risk for distracted driving crashes. A 2014 study published in The New England Journal of Medicine suggested that any secondary task undertaken by adolescent drivers, including using a cell phone, eating or reaching for an object, significantly increased the risk of a crash or near-crash. Dialing a cell phone significantly increased the risk of a crash in both new and experienced drivers.
Texting and Driving Statistics
Researchers conducting The New England Journal of Medicine Study noted the following linked to cell phone use while driving:
- Cell phone use among all drivers increased the risk of a crash by a factor of four
- Adolescent drivers who texted while driving had an increased risk of lane deviations
- Adolescent drivers who used a cell phone were more likely to enter an intersection at a red or yellow light
- Experienced drivers who used cell phones showed delayed reaction times, increased following distances, and diminished scanning of the environment
Distracted Driving Facts
The NHTSA reports that in the five seconds a driver’s eyes are off the road to check a text message, a car traveling at 55 miles per hour will have moved the length of a football field. Other studies have shown that when drivers’ eyes are pulled from the road, they look away for between four and 10 seconds.
Those who are most likely to drive while distracted are drivers under the age of 20, the CDC notes. The agency’s Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System found that in 2015, 42 percent of who school students who drove in the past 30 days reported sending either a text or email while driving. Additionally, those who reported they frequently text while driving was also less likely to wear a seatbelt, more likely to be a passenger in a car in which the driver had been drinking, and more likely to drink and drive.
Distracted drivers, in general, are more likely to drive more slowly, have a slower reaction time, and use compensatory behaviors to deal with their distraction, such as pulling into a slower lane.
Minnesota Distracted Driving Laws
It is illegal for drivers to read, compose or send text messages and emails, or access the Internet on a wireless device while the vehicle they are driving is part of traffic, including being stopped in heavy traffic or stopped at a traffic light.
As of March 2019, Minnesota’s House of Representatives passed a bill that would ban drivers from holding cell phones while their vehicle is part of traffic. This bill strengthens the previous law because it was difficult for law enforcement to show that drivers were holding their cell phones to text or send an email as opposed to using it for other tasks. Now, drivers who are caught holding their phones, regardless of the reason, could face fines.
Dangers of Distracted Driving
The dangers of distracted driving are shared by everyone on the road, including other motorists, pedestrians, and bicyclists. Distracted driving accidents have catastrophic consequences for their victims:
- Traumatic brain injuries
- Broken bones
- Internal injuries
Too often, other motorists are at the mercy of distracted drivers and through no fault of their own find themselves the victims of distracted driving crashes. Thousands of lives are lost every year to preventable accidents, causing untold pain and suffering for their loved ones who must deal with the fallout of distracted driving deaths.
Even something that seems as simple as putting away a cell phone can have tragic consequences. That’s what happened in Dodge County, Minnesota, in Sep. 2019, when a 24-year-old driver looked down at his center console to put his cell phone away. The Hummer he was driving rear-ended a car, killing the driver and her 8-year-old daughter.
How to Prevent Distracted Driving
There are many things drivers can do while driving to prevent distractions:
- Put cell phones away or ask a passenger to deal with text messages or phone calls
- Plan the route ahead of time or use a hands-free navigational device
- Avoid food or beverages while driving, especially anything messy or that will spill easily
- Adjust mirrors and seat positions before driving
- Preprogram radio stations
- Ensure children understand the importance of not distracting the driver
Distracted Truck Drivers
Distracted motor vehicle crashes do not just involve passenger cars. Too often, semi-truck drivers use their cell phones or are otherwise distracted while driving their big rigs, causing gruesome and often fatal accidents. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) notes that the odds of a commercial vehicle operator being in a situation in which someone’s safety is in jeopardy are 23.2 times higher for CMV drivers who text while driving than those who do not. The FMCSA defines texting to include both reading and manually entering text into an electronic device.
The agency notes that approximately six percent of large truck crashes involved driver distraction as a factor and of those, 16 percent of the distractions involved cell phone use.
Because of their large size compared to passenger vehicles, collisions involving semi-trucks and other commercial vehicles can be particularly gruesome and involve catastrophic injuries for victims. All commercial motor vehicle drivers are prohibited from texting while driving.
Distracted Driving Lawsuits
If you or a loved one was injured in a Minnesota distracted driving car accident, you need a distracted driving attorney who has the skill and expertise to conduct a proper investigation and ensure you receive the maximum compensation you’re entitled to. Investigating a motor vehicle accident can be complex, including:
- Interviewing witnesses
- Hiring experts
- Obtaining medical records
- Determining liability
- Assessing your injuries and the compensation you are entitled to
We are committed to holding distracted drivers accountable for their negligent actions.
Distracted Driving Lawyers
Attorneys at Patterson Dahlberg have vast experience in car accident claims, including dealing with insurance companies and filing lawsuits where necessary. We will advise you of your rights and ensure you are able to make an informed decision about how to progress with your claim. Distracted driving lawsuits can include insurance claims, personal injury or wrongful death lawsuits against the other driver, and personal injury or wrongful death lawsuits against a company, if the driver was involved in work-related duties at the time of the crash.
We know how painful and stressful the time following a car accident is. We are here to help you through the legal process, so you can focus on yourself and your family. Contact us today for a no-obligation consultation. We work on contingency, so there you only pay fees when you receive compensation.