Vehicles have more safety features, but technology has also provided more distractions from driving. In 2019, there were 986,000 accidents in this country that were attributed to driving while distracted that caused 3,142 fatalities. Approximately 280,000 people each year will suffer injuries in these accidents.
Distracted driving is any kind of behavior that takes a driver’s attention from the road. It caused 8.7 percent of fatal motor vehicle accidents in 2019. In 2020 there were 20,400 distracted driving accidents in Tennessee or 55 each day.
When drivers are not fully engaged, they do not understand or process information from objects on the road even when they are looking at them. A motorist’s brain and visual processing are not working together if the driver is distracted.
Cell phone use is a frequent cause of distracted driving. Talking on the cellphone, according to a 2006 University of Utah study, is as dangerous as drunk driving. But there are other causes of distracted driving which fall into four categories:
- Visual distractions that cause a motorist to divert their attention from the road such as turning to talk to a passenger in the back seat.
- Auditory distractions like listening to music or passenger conversations.
- Manual distractions that take away the driver’s hands from the steering wheel such as eating, drinking, or using electronic devices.
- Cognitive distractions that cause the mind to wonder like being preoccupied with a problem or fatigue.
In Tennessee it is illegal to hold a cellphone or mobile device when driving, to record or watch videos or to write, send or read messages. But distracted driving includes these and other activities:
- Texting and driving or having intense phone conversation.
- Applying makeup.
- Reaching for items in the back seat.
- Turning to face passengers in the back seat.
- Having conversations with passengers.
- Using a GPS sound system or other electronics.
- Focusing on rear-view mirror.
A 2006 Virginia Tech Transportation and NHTSA study found that almost 80 percent of traffic accidents and 65 percent of near accidents involved driver inattention within three seconds of the crash. The most common distraction was phone use and then drowsiness.
Cell phone use, according to the study, was far less likely to cause an accident than other distractions. The risk of an accident rose nine times by reaching for an object compared to talking on the phone multiplying the risk by 1.3 times.
Victims of accidents caused by a distracted driver can be severely injured. Attorneys can help them, or their families seek compensation.