Distracted driving may not seem dangerous while you are doing it, but studies suggest it may be just as dangerous as driving while intoxicated. In 2011, nearly one in five crashes involving injury occurred because of distracted driving. The numbers are particularly bad in Texas. In 2013, there were a reported 94,943 crashes that involved distracted driving, 459 of which resulted in death.
If you or a loved one have been involved in a distracted driving car accident, reach out to our experienced Houston injury attorneys to learn how they can get the maximum amount of compensation for your damages.
What Are the Top 3 Distractions While Driving?
Although distracted driving usually suggests texting, there are actually many other forms. The three main types of distraction are:
- Visual Distraction, or not looking at the road
- Manual Distraction, or taking your hand off the wheel
- Cognitive Distraction, or not paying attention while driving
These types of distractions can manifest in various forms. Innocent-seeming actions, like eating, using a GPS, and talking on the phone could all be considered driving distractions. Of course, some distractions are difficult to control. Same day to day events we all do when we drive could be labeled distractions, like children talking in the backseat, thinking about work instead of the road, or an accident in another lane that causes you to look away.
How Much More Likely Are You to Crash While Texting?
According to the CDC, however, texting is the most dangerous of all forms because it is a combination of all three types. On average, texting takes the driver’s eyes off the road for almost five seconds. That’s like driving through a football field with your eyes shut.
Texas resident Jennifer Zamora-Jamison understands the tragedy that distracted driving can cause. In 2007, Zamora’s husband was killed in a distracted driving accident. Driving down a California highway, he was attempting to pick up his cell phone underneath a car seat when the fatal accident occurred. Zamora’s daughter, Maxine, was in the car at the time and survived the crash.
Zamora reports that after the accident, Maxine suffered severe emotional struggles in dealing with the tragedy. Just last year, Maxine committed suicide in Fort Worth. Jennifer, heartbroken over the loss of her family, believes that distracted driving is to blame both directly and indirectly.
Distracted Driving: A Leading cause of Car Accidents, Injuries, and Fatalities
Distracted driving has become one of the leading causes of auto injuries and fatalities, accounting for almost 30% of accidents. These numbers will continue to rise with newer technology and new drivers taking to the road every year. As these numbers rise, so do distracted driving lawsuits.
In Texas, distracted driver criminal laws are always changing.
Texas is one of only seven states that has not yet imposed a ban on texting and driving, although some local ordinances have enacted bans. However, this does not mean that distracted drivers cannot be held accountable in the event of an accident. Even if a distracted driver was not technically breaking the law, he or she may still be held civilly liable in the event of an accident.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reported that Texas employers alone spend roughly $4.3 billion per year in on and off job traffic-related injuries. In 2010, a Coca Cola employee who was driving while on his cell phone hit a Texas woman in her vehicle. She was awarded more than $11.5 million for lost wages and medical expenses.
Until Texas implements a state-wide ban on distracted driving, victims of accidents will have to seek compensation by proving negligence. In the meantime, Texas residents are encouraged to participate in the Texas Department of Transportation’s Talk.Text.Crash campaign and raise awareness, especially to new drivers. Advocacy groups like Enddd.org are raising awareness nationwide and trying to get state legislatures to pass distracted driving bans in the last 7 remaining states.
Types of Distracted Driving in Houston
Distracted driving takes thousands of lives every year, and hundreds of thousands more suffer injuries due to distracted driving accidents. According to experts, three distinct types of distracted driving are commonly involved in these types of accidents:
- Cognitive distractions,
- Visual distractions, and
- Manual distractions.
Each category of distracted driving takes a driver’s eyes and/or mind off the road, leading to poor driving decisions and less reaction time. Sometimes, distracted driving can involve a combination of these three distractions.
Cognitive distractions involve a driver taking his or her mind off of driving, leading to inattentiveness to the road and other drivers. These distractions can limit a driver’s ability to respond to sudden events on the road or respond to traffic signs and signals.
- Driving while drowsy or falling asleep at the wheel
- Getting angry while driving, also known as road rage
- Driving under the influence of drugs and alcohol
- Having conversations with other people in the car
- Daydreaming while driving
- Talking to someone or thinking about things you need to do that day
- Thinking about various problems you are facing
Visual distractions involve any type of distracted driving activity that takes a driver’s eyes off the road for any period of time. Multiple activities can constitute visual distractions while driving.
- Looking at the vehicle’s entertainment center to change radio stations, turn on the air conditioning, or adjust other climate controls
- Glancing at the GPS display or a smartphone GPS
- Staring at something out of the window, such as a car accident scene
- Looking for something you drop on the car floor
- Reading text messages and notifications as they pop up on your phone
Manual distractions involve a driver removing one or both hands from the steering wheel for any period of time. Manual distractions can easily cause a driver to lose control of his or her vehicle or fail to react to circumstances on the road.
- Typing a text message or email on your smartphone
- Handing something to another passenger in the car
- Smoking a cigarette or using a vaping device
- Eating or drinking
- Adjusting the touchscreen on your GPS or entertainment center
- Adjusting your seatbelt
- Digging through your backpack, purse, or briefcase
Distracted Driving Statistics
Distracted driving is a serious problem throughout the United States, including Texas. In fact, the Texas Department of Transportation compiles statistics each year illustrating the dangers of the practice, along with tips on how to avoid accidents. According to the agency, distracted driving causes many deaths and injuries in Texas each year.
- 537,475 traffic accidents took place on Texas roads in 2017.
- Of the traffic accidents in 2017, 19% involved distracted driving – for a total of 100,487 crashes.
- Two thousand eight hundred eighty-nine serious injuries occurred as a result of distracted driving in Texas in 2017.
- In 2017 alone, 449 people died as a result of distracted driving in Texas. This statistic is a 2% decrease from the distracted driving deaths in 2016.
- In regard to driving under the influence of alcohol and drugs, 1,024 people died in accidents involving an intoxicated, cognitively impaired driver.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, distracted driving is incredibly dangerous. Each day, 9 people across the United States die as a result of distracted driving and over 1,000 people suffer injuries in these accidents. Taking your eyes off the road for 5 seconds while traveling at 55 miles per hour is the equivalent of driving the length of a football field blindfolded. Factor in other drivers, pedestrians, cyclists, and objects, and you have a recipe for a dangerous driving situation.
Who Is Liable in a Distracted Driving Accident?
Proving liability in a distracted driving accident can be a challenge, depending on the circumstances of your case. The at-fault driver in your case will owe you a duty of care to operate his or her vehicle in a safe and responsible manner. If he or she is driving while distracted, he or she breaches this duty of care and you can hold the at-fault driver responsible for your injuries.
However, you will need to prove that distracted driving led to your accident, which can be difficult to do without proper investigation, evidence, and assistance from your attorney. Brian White & Associates can help you uncover crucial documentation proving the instance of distracted driving and conducting a full-scale investigation into the circumstances of your case.
You can prove liability in a distracted driving accident in a number of ways.
- You can get the other driver to admit that he or she drove while distracted. He or she may have admitted the distraction at the scene of the accident, or the at-fault driver may settle outside of court by admitting guilt.
- You can interview witnesses at the scene and have them give testimony on your behalf. These witnesses can be bystanders, passengers, or anyone else who gave a report to the police at the scene of the accident.
- You can provide police reports. If you called 911 after your accident, the police officer will detail the circumstances of your accident and may include a preliminary assessment of fault. These reports may include information that the officer determined was distracted driving.
- You can use cell phone records to prove that the driver was using his or her phone at the time of the accident. Your attorney can gain access to the other driver’s cell phone records during the discovery process if you choose to file a lawsuit.
- Sometimes, dash cams, cell phone videos, and surveillance cameras can pick up evidence of distracted driving. Your attorney can help you gain access to this footage.
What Can I Claim in a Distracted Driving Crash?
When you file a personal injury lawsuit or insurance claim for a distracted driving accident in Houston, you can claim both economic and noneconomic damages for your losses. Economic damages involve expenses related to your injuries, and may include the following losses:
- Past and future medical expenses, including hospitalizations, surgeries, medications, and doctor’s visits
- Property damage, including repairs to your vehicles
- Lost wages due to recovery from your injuries
- Household services that you cannot perform while injured
- Lost earning potential due to your injuries
In addition to these tangible expenses, you can claim noneconomic damages to recover from your distracted driving accident. These damages may include pain and suffering, emotional trauma, and post-traumatic stress disorder. Your attorney can help you calculate and identify these damages. If the distracted driving incident involved a willful act, omission, or gross negligence, you may be able to claim punitive damages as well.
If you choose to file a personal injury lawsuit for your distracted driving damages, the jury will determine how much to award you and what types of damages you can claim. Texas operates under a comparative negligence rule in car accident cases to determine liability and damages.
The jury will examine the circumstances of your case and determine who was at fault for causing the accident. You can receive a portion of the liability if the jury finds that you also engaged in negligent behavior, such as speeding or committing a traffic violation. The jury will reduce your award by the percentage of your liability. However, if the jury finds that you are more than 50% at fault for your accident, you will not receive any damages.
For example, say that you receive a $200,000 settlement and the jury finds you to be responsible for 20% of the accident. You will receive $160,000. However, if the jury finds you to be responsible for 60% of your accident, you will not receive any damages.
If you have been involved in an accident with a distracted driver in the Houston area, call an experienced car accident lawyer. Attorneys experienced in distracted driving lawsuits know the changes that are always occurring with distracted driving laws and can get you the maximum amount of compensation for your damages.