Phone Calls. E-mails. Deciding which music to listen to. Catching up on news. Posting updates on social media sites. Getting directions for where you are going. Sending messages. Viewing advertisements and videos.
Keeping up on all of the activities that technology places at our fingertips is distracting enough when you are at work or at home. But today, people are making the dangerous—and in some cases deadly—mistake of using their smartphones to undertake these activities while they are driving.
Cell phones are one of the primary sources of distracted driving, whether they are used for chatting or texting with friends, checking e-mails, or consulting a map. But there are other activities that can distract a driver from concentrating on the road, such as electronic billboards, eating a fast-food hamburger or taco, applying make-up, inserting a CD into the player, finding a better radio station, adjusting the A/C system, or just gabbing with passengers.
No matter which way you look at it, driving is serious business. Even just a sneeze while you are driving—an incident which seems to last only an instant—means that you may end up driving with your eyes closed for over 200 feet of highway.
But because a sneeze is involuntary, a driver might be excused for that sort of distraction from the road. However, when a driver is willfully looking down at a telephone screen to read an e-mail, or trying to punch in letters or numbers while he drives with one hand—or worse, with just his wrists or forearms—on the wheel, and ends up hitting another car, or a bicyclist, motorcyclist, or pedestrian, then the accident is inexcusable.
Studies Indicate Significant Percentage of Car Accidents Attributable to Cell Phone Use
Although fast food and chatty car-mates have been around for decades, cell phones have not. So it is only in recent years that the National Highway Transportation Safety Agency has sought to compile statistics on the incidence of cell phone use—whether for talking, texting, or other manipulation of the devices—as a cause or contributing cause of accidents. Consequently, while there are no definitive statistics to date to attribute specific numbers to cell phone accident causation, the National Safety Council, using various studies, has nevertheless gauged estimates as to how many accidents are caused by distracted driving. Their conclusions:
- Nearly 21%, or 1.1 million, crashes in 2011 involved a driver talking on a cell-phone—using both hand-held and hands-free devices;
- An additional 4% of crashes, or at least 213,000 crashes, involved a driver text-messaging.
In other words, at least 25% of all crashes, nationwide, involve drivers distracted by cell phone use in one way or another.
The ubiquitous use of cell phones by drivers—and their attendant accidents—has of course been noticed by state regulators. Accordingly, nearly every state has enacted some type of regulation regarding cell phone use behind the wheel. In Illinois, the current law is that cell phone use is banned by all bus drivers and drivers under the age of 19, and for all drivers while driving in a school zone or in a highway construction zone, where pedestrians are more likely to be present. Illinois also bans all texting while driving.
Yet despite these laws, accidents caused by texting and talking continue to happen. Sadly, the culprits are disproportionately younger drivers. Drivers under 25 have grown up virtually wedded to their cell phones, and tend to possess an unreasonably optimistic view of their capabilities in terms of driving safely while simultaneously using a cell phone for texting or talking. According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, 16%, or about one-sixth, of all distracted driving crashes involve drivers under 20 years of age. But of course, they are not the only ones guilty of infractions. In a survey of all U.S. drivers, 69% reported that they had talked on their cell phone while driving within the 30 days before they were surveyed, and 31% reported that they had read or sent text or email messages at least once while driving within the 30 days before they were surveyed.
Pursuing Damages When You Have Been Injured by a Distracted Driver
It is heartbreaking when you are seriously injured or someone you love loses their life in a vehicle accident. But it can be completely devastating to learn that the driver did not just make an unfortunate mistake, but was behaving recklessly by purposely diverting his or her attention away from driving to make a phone call or to send a message.
The Illinois car accident attorneys at Abels & Annes, P.C. have experience representing the victims of car accidents in obtaining recovery from negligent drivers, especially those drivers who willfully disobey traffic laws specifically designed for their own safety and the safety of other users of the road, whether they are other drivers, pedestrians, bicyclists, or motorcyclists. If you have been injured in a crash involving a distracted driver, contact Abels & Annes, P.C, at (855) LAW-CHICAGO (529-2442) or (312) 924-7575 to set up a free and confidential consultation, or contact us online today.