Distracted driving includes any activity that takes your eyes, mind, or hands away from driving. The most common cause of distracted driving comes from electronic devices. But many other activities can distract you, from yelling at the kids in the back seat to spilling a hot drink on your leg.
Many of these activities have become routine. But even a short distraction can end in tragedy.
Here are some of the safety, financial, and legal consequences of distracted driving.
Definition of Distracted Driving
Distracted driving is one of the top causes of crashes in California. Driving requires your attention. Anything that draws your attention from driving can lead to a crash. Distracted driving can involve:
When you take your hands off the wheel or your feet off the accelerator or brake pedals, you cannot react as quickly to road or traffic hazards. Some examples of manual distractions include:
- Eating or drinking
- Reaching for something
- Brushing teeth or hair
- Adjusting the radio
Some manual distractions also incorporate elements of visual or mental distractions, such as putting on makeup while driving.
Visual distractions take your eyes off the road or the dashboard indicators, such as the speedometer. Even a brief visual distraction can prevent you from recognizing road users or hazards until too late.
At a modest speed of 35 miles per hour, you travel over 50 feet every second. During a brief 3-second glance at your phone, your car will cover over half a football field. You would not spot any pedestrians, bicyclists, motorists, or truck drivers in your way as you cover that distance. You would essentially be driving blindfolded.
Some common visual distractions include:
- Watching a video
- Searching for an address
- Looking at a map
Remember that visual distractions can also appear outside the vehicle. Rubber-necking at an accident can lead to an accident of your own.
Mental distractions take your mind off driving. You might have slower reactions or make poor decisions when you have a preoccupied mind.
Many drivers fail to appreciate the dangers of mental distractions. For example, many drivers believe that hands-free calling is safer than handheld cell phone use while driving.
But studies show that driving skills degrade about the same whether you hold your phone or use it hands-free. These studies suggest the danger of cell use while driving comes from the mental part of your conversation, not the physical part.
Some other mental distractions include:
- Thinking about work or school
You cannot avoid every distracting thought while driving. But driving while stressed, upset, or fatigued can create prime conditions for an accident.
Consequences of Distracted Driving
Distracted driving can lead to traffic accidents. You might not spot a traffic or road hazard until you have already hit it. Or you could drift out of your lane, accelerate, or slow down without realizing it.
If you drive while distracted, you could face many consequences, including:
Distracted driving can endanger your safety and the safety of others. Some types of accidents that result from distracted driving include:
Rear-end collisions happen when you hit a car from behind. This often happens when the car ahead of you slows or stops, and you react too slowly — due to a distraction — causing a collision.
It can also happen when a car turns, merges, or changes lanes ahead of you, and you hit it from behind because you were distracted. Rear-end collisions can cause serious injuries, including whiplash.
Sideswipes happen when the side of your vehicle scrapes along the side of another vehicle. Sideswipes can happen when you drift out of your lane into another lane or oncoming traffic. This drift can result from a distraction.
Motorcycle, Bicycle, and Pedestrian Accidents
Drivers have trouble spotting motorcycles, bicycles, and pedestrians even when undistracted. They can appear unexpectedly, giving you little reaction time even under the best conditions.
When you drive distracted, you could hit a motorcycle, bicycle, or pedestrian before you even see it.
If you cause an accident while distracted, you probably bear some or all of the liability for the resulting property damage and injuries. If you have auto insurance, your policy will cover these liabilities up to your policy limits.
If you lack insurance or the damages exceed your policy limits, you could get sued by those you hit. If the accident victims prove you acted negligently by driving while distracted, a jury could award damages to them.
You could incur legal liability even if you were only partly to blame for your accident. California uses comparative fault, which means each person who contributed to an accident bears a proportional share of the damages.
If another driver cuts you off and you hit them from behind, the other driver will typically have to pay your damages. But if you were texting during the collision, some liability could be shifted to you.
Aside from civil liability, you could also get cited for a traffic infraction if a police officer sees you driving while distracted.
In severe cases where you cause an injury or death in a distracted driving accident, prosecutors could charge you with reckless driving or even automobile homicide. Not only could you land in jail, but you would also carry the burden of causing an injury or death for the rest of your life.
In addition to getting hit with a court judgment, you could face additional financial consequences, including:
- Higher insurance premiums
- Out-of-pocket expenses for your medical care
- Payments to repair or replace your vehicle
- Lost income from missed work
Not every distracted driver will incur all these costs. But even a fraction of these expenses could substantially affect your finances.
Avoiding Distracted Driving
You can avoid the consequences of distracted driving by remaining conscious of your driving behavior. Many people do not even realize the impairment caused by distractions until it’s too late.
But by putting away your cell phone, waiting to eat or drink, and giving yourself a little extra time so you do not need to multitask, you could avoid all of the problems that come from distracted driving.
Since 1992, our personal injury attorneys at the Pines Salomon Injury Lawyers, APC. have been fighting for the people of San Diego. Now, when those injured in automobile accidents – including car, truck, and motorcycle accidents – need financial help, or for the families that need to know that the loss of a loved one could have been prevented, there is a personal injury law firm in San Diego that is on their side. If you or a family member has been injured, call the lawyers at Pines Salomon Injury Lawyers, APC. There’s never been a better time than right now to speak to a personal injury attorney—FREE of charge. Call us at 858-551-2090 or request a free consultation online today!
SENIOR PERSONAL INJURY ATTORNEY & FIRM FOUNDER
Michael Pines is a former insurance company attorney who graduated from the University of California Hastings College of the Law in 1987. While he was an insurance attorney, he learned from behind the scenes how insurance companies work and how they decide how much to pay injured people. Now that he works against insurance companies, Michael’s inside knowledge has resulted in significant benefits to his clients injured in car accidents. Learn more about Michael Pines