Distracted Driving Lawsuits: More Than Texting While Driving

Distracted Driving Lawsuits: More Than Texting While Driving

Distracted driving lawsuits hold irresponsible drivers accountable and help victims recover from devastating injuries. But what counts as "distracted driving?"

Media accounts tend to focus on texting while driving, and while this is a serious concern, it doesn't tell the whole story. That's not to say cellphone usage isn't a major traffic concern; one 2017 study found that an alarming 1 in 4 drivers involved in car crashes were using cellphones just prior to the accident. Still, it's important for victims to know that drivers can be considered negligently distracted for many tasks beyond using phones.

The best data on driving distractions dates from a 2013 report from insurer Erie Insurance, which analyzed police reports from the federal Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS) to uncover the most common sources of distraction in fatal car accidents. Granted, these figures are likely to have changed over the years, but this analysis still provides a strong example of the range of behaviors that lead to distracted driving. Here are the distractions cited in the Erie report, arranged from least-common to most.

10.) One percent of the accidents involved smoking; everything from lighting a cigarette through to extinguishing it.

9.) One percent of drivers who caused fatal wrecks were distracted by pets or stray insects moving inside the cab.

8.) One percent were busy using in-car features, like navigation systems or adjustable seating.

7.) Two percent were distracted by controlling the stereo system or air-conditioning.

6.) Two percent were eating while driving.

5.) Another 2 percent went out of their way to reach for objects inside the vehicle.

4.) Five percent were engaged with their passengers, either talking to them or looking over at them.

3.) Seven percent were distracted by events outside the windshield, taking their eyes off the road.

2.) A surprisingly small 12 percent were using their cellphones. This includes texting, dialing, and talking on the phone.    

10.) The top cause of distraction in these cases was simple daydreaming, or general distraction, with 62 percent.

How Distracted Driving Lawsuits Became Associated with Texting While Driving Alone

It's not surprising that we tend to associate distracted driving with texting alone; authorities from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) point to cell-phone usage as a major danger on today's roads.

Texting while driving combines all three classes of distraction named by the CDC, that organization reports. That is, sending a text behind the wheel distracts visually (as you look away from the road), manually (as you release the steering wheel), and cognitively (as you compose your text rather than focusing on the flow of traffic around you).

But while a driver's cellphone usage may be a serious danger, note that the dire statistics the CDC and the NHTSA provide refer to distracted driving as a whole. When the CDC warns that 9 people lose their lives and 1,000 are injured by distracted drivers every day in the United States, not all of those drivers were checking their phones at the time of the accident.

Similarly, the NHTSA reports that distracted driving led directly to the loss of 3,477 lives in 2015. They also point out that an estimated 660,000 drivers use electronic devices during daytime driving.

The takeaway here is that using cellphones while driving is unacceptably risky — but if you've been injured in a car accident, you may be entitled to recovery from an at-fault driver who was distracted by a wide range of behaviors that go far beyond cell-phone use. To learn more, or for a free consultation on a potential distracted driving lawsuit, contact the attorneys of Wilkins Schneller at 314-588-8000.