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Driver distraction a growing concern

| Jun 24, 2014 | Motor Vehicle Accident

Many Illinois residents have hectic schedules and must multitask to get through a typical day. Unfortunately, when people apply this mindset to the task of driving, their distraction poses a serious threat to public safety. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, distracted driving claims 9 lives and injures more than 1,000 people every day. Alarmingly, distracted driving accidents have increased significantly in the last several years, despite state laws, safety campaigns and other initiatives to stop the behavior.

Distracted driving facts

In 2011, distracted driving caused 3,331 fatalities and over 387,000 injuries, which represented an increase in fatalities from 2010, according to the CDC. The Governors Highway Safety Association estimates as many as one-quarter of all accidents involve some form of distraction. These statistics may not even represent the full scope of the problem. Research from the National Safety Council indicates accidents involving some types of distraction, including cell phones, are under-reported.

Any activity that presents a visual, manual or mental distraction constitutes distracted driving. Such activities include:

  • Using voice-command technology
  • Looking at physical or digital maps
  • Eating or drinking
  • Attending to children or pets
  • Performing personal grooming

Illinois law bans all drivers from sending texts or using handheld phones. Even if every driver observed these laws, however, motorists would still be exposed to risky behaviors. As an example, over 30 studies have shown hands-free cell phone use, which is still legal in Illinois, is no safer than handheld cell phone use, according to the NSC. Even as authorities focus on stopping certain types of distracted driving, other prevalent forms of distraction may put innocent motorists in danger.

Distraction as negligence

A driver who causes a car accident while distracted may be held liable for the resulting damage and injuries. A driver may be found negligent for any behavior that constitutes an unreasonable distraction, even if the behavior did not violate any specific state laws. To win damages, an accident victim must prove the driver’s behavior was negligent and directly resulted in injury.

Establishing negligence may be easier in accidents involving electronic devices. A victim generally may subpoena cell phone records to prove a driver was texting or using a handheld phone at the time of the accident. Since these behaviors are illegal, the driver could then be found guilty of negligence per se. In other cases, it may be more difficult to establish that the at-fault driver was distracted. Regardless of the specific accident circumstances, victims can typically benefit from seeking legal help to protect or produce evidence of the other driver’s negligence.