Life comes with plenty of distractions. Unfortunately, those distractions continue for many drivers when they slide behind the wheel. Even the smallest distraction may lead to anything from a small fender-bender to a devastating, deadly car crash.
In 2020, more than 42,000 individuals died on American highways in accidents according to the National Safety Council (NSC). Of those 42,000 deaths, approximately nine percent were likely to have been caused in some way by driver distractions, per statistics from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). That means more than 3,500 people lost their lives because of distracted drivers. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) echoes that 3,500 number as an approximate yearly expectation.
Why does distraction happen anyway, and how can it be overcome to temper unnecessary injuries and fatalities? The answer can be found in diving deeper into why drivers become distracted and the behavioral changes they can make to improve the overall road safety for themselves and others.
What Are Some Examples of Distracted Driving?
Distracted driving occurs when a driver experiences a visual, manual, or cognitive distraction. Although a car, SUV, or truck may seem like a small place to experience distraction, plenty of distractions can take a driver’s focus off the main duty of driving.
Some of the most commonly reported driver distractions include but are hardly limited to the following behaviors:
- Talking on a cell phone. Drivers who are speaking on their phones cannot fully concentrate on traffic. In Illinois, using a handheld mobile phone while driving is prohibited by law.
- Texting on a cell phone. Not surprisingly, many drivers admit to texting while driving. Answering a single text can lead to a catastrophic crash. Again, Illinois is one of 47 states with a law on the books making texting while driving a punishable offense.
- Performing personal hygiene routines. Lots of drivers put on makeup, brush their hair, and perform other grooming activities while driving a car. Even if they do these hygiene activities only at stop signs or stop lights, they can put themselves and others at danger.
- Eating and drinking. Breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks are often eaten by drivers trying to multitask. Some drivers go so far as to drink alcoholic beverages while behind the wheel, which adds another level of distraction and danger to their driving.
- Reaching for something that fell. A purse tips over and its contents spill onto the floor. An object falls from the back seat and gets lodged behind the driver’s seat. What does the driver naturally want to do? Pick up the object, of course. However, trying to grab items while driving is a recipe for an accident.
- Taking pictures with a phone. Believe it or not, plenty of drivers who spot interesting objects along the highway will whip out their cameras to take a picture while they are still driving.
- Engaging in heated discussions with passengers. Talking with passengers can be a pleasant pastime. On the other hand, arguing with them distracts everyone.
- Petting an animal or tending to a child. Parents and pet parents alike may become distracted by their companions. Data from AAA notes that about three out of every 10 people who drive with their dogs say they get distracted by them.
- Daydreaming or nodding off. Driving while sleepy or preoccupied mentally can make it difficult to concentrate on navigating wisely or reacting to abrupt changes.
Again, anything that gives a driver a reason not to focus on the road can be labeled a distraction. Stopping distracted driving begins by accepting that distractions will occur and understanding how to avoid them.
Why Do People Engage in Distracted Driving?
Many driver distractions have one of three causes. The first is that the driver is impatient. Our society pushes for instant gratification. Consequently, drivers believe that they can do everything at once and have what they need at their fingertips. When they are driving, this can be an unreasonable and dangerous goal.
The second potential reason for driver distraction is that drivers assume that nothing bad will happen to them. This is a very human reaction. Although drivers hear about other accidents, they assume that they will never have to worry about being in a car crash.
Finally, drivers may not recognize distractions because they see other people doing the same thing. When everyone else is talking on the phone while driving or eating while driving, why should they stop? What they fail to realize is that it is just a matter of time before poor choices catch up to many drivers and lead to problems.
How Can I Avoid Driving While Distracted?
You can help reduce the likelihood of causing an accident from your distractions by taking the following steps:
- Put your phone on silent for the duration of your trip. That way, you will not know if you receive texts, calls, or other notifications.
- Choose a single radio station and keep it locked in until you stop your car. Avoid changing channels constantly or fiddling with the sound system as you drive.
- Eat before or after you drive, not while you are driving. If you are taking a long road trip, stop to eat. Another idea is to share the driving duties with a passenger so you can eat while the other person is operating the vehicle.
- Stop trying to multitask when driving. Your only goal should be to get where you are going in the safest manner possible.
- Tell yourself you will not get distracted before you get into your car. In other words, exercise a little self-coaching.
Reducing your temptation to drive while distracted will go a long way toward helping you react quickly to anything from a sudden change in weather to an aggressive driver.
What Can I Do if I Get Injured Because of a Distracted Driver?
Now that you know more about distracted driving, you may find yourself noticing other drivers who may be distracted. For instance, you might see someone running red lights, not using their signals, putting on makeup, texting visibly, or speeding up or slowing down inappropriately. When this happens, try to avoid the driver by either getting around them on a multi-lane highway, letting them pass you, or taking an alternate route.
If a distracted driver ends up causing an accident that leads to property damage or personal injury for you, make sure you get compensated appropriately. You may want to contact a lawyer who concentrates on helping those injured in car crashes, especially if your injuries are extensive or life-threatening.
Of course, if your loved one is seriously hurt or killed in a distracted driver accident, you should do likewise. Insurance companies may try to downplay the extent of the bills and non-economic damages caused by distracted driving accidents. Working with a lawyer may help you recover a much higher sum than you would without the assistance of a legal team.
St. Clair County Car Crash Lawyers at The Cates Law Firm, LLC Help Clients Injured in Accidents Caused by a Distracted Driver
If you were involved in a car accident caused by the actions of a distracted driver, reach out to the St. Clair County car crash lawyers at The Cates Law Firm, LLC. Our experienced legal team will investigate the circumstances of the accident and fight to ensure the best possible outcome for your case. Call us today at 618-277-3644 or contact us online for a free consultation. Located in Swansea, Illinois, we serve clients in St. Louis, Belleville, East St. Louis, Edwardsville, Granite City, Waterloo, Chester, Carbondale, St. Clair County, Madison County, Monroe County, Randolph County, and other regions throughout Southern Illinois.