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Distracted Driving: It Costs Money… And Lives.

Lawyers weigh in on the financial and legal repercussions of this dangerous habit.

Any activity that pulls your attention away from driving is considered distracted driving. Prior to the use of cell phones, distracted driving was typically caused by something as seemingly mundane as trying to eat or apply make-up while driving. Smartphones have raised the stakes, as drivers just can’t seem to help themselves, whether it’s sending a quick text or even recoding a video while also maneuvering their car down the highway.

Texas is now the 47th state in the country to adopt a law banning texting and driving. If a driver is caught texting while driving, he or she will be punishable by a fine of up to $99. Repeat offenders will have to pay $200. Enacting this law is an effort to curb potentially dangerous or fatal accidents that are caused by distracted drivers.

While ad campaigns, such as AT&T’s “It Can Wait” and TxDOT’s “Talk, Text, Crash,” have placed the dangers of driving while distracted at the forefront of society’s attention, it continues to be a problem in Texas. In fact, AT&T “It Can Wait’s” data on Texans’ attitudes toward smartphone usage while driving indicates that the risky behavior is still pervasive with nearly nine out of 10 people admitting they do it. According to TxDOT, drivers are not changing their behaviors, as one in five crashes today involve distracted driving. In 2017, the total number of reportable motor vehicle traffic crashes on Texas roads was 537,475. Of those, 100,687, or 19 percent, involved distracted driving. The 100,687 crashes in Texas resulted in 444 deaths and 2,889 serious injuries.

The consequences of distracted driving can change lives in numerous ways. “In addition to the physical dangers to the occupants of all cars, there are potentially both criminal and civil consequences,” says Gene Burkett, partner with Frenkel & Frenkel.

The personal injury lawyers at Frenkel & Frenkel have first-hand evidence of the dangers of using mobile devices while driving, as they commonly represent victims and families of victims of these related crashes. The consequences of distracted driving can change lives in numerous ways. “In addition to the physical dangers to the occupants of all cars, there are potentially both criminal and civil consequences,” says Gene Burkett, partner with Frenkel & Frenkel. “Drivers causing severe injuries or death are now being prosecuted. Additionally, cell phone use now adds punitive damages to many civil cases.”

Smartphones offer an easy way to keep in touch with others and serve a purpose by keeping drivers on the right path with GPS programs and maps. However, statistics show that mobile devices significantly increase the incidence of distracted driving. For most, texting requires the use of both hands that should be on the steering wheel and can cause a significant lack of focus on driving, especially when looking down at the phone. The highways’ most inexperienced drivers—teens—are especially at risk. About 40 percent of American teens say that they have been in a car when the driver was using a mobile phone in a dangerous manner, including texting, and 11 percent of drivers ages 18 to 20 who had been involved in accidents admitted they were either sending or receiving texts, according to the FCC.

Car and Driver magazine conducted an experiment to determine the accuracy of data found in academic studies regarding the dangers of texting and driving. Because many of the academic studies used vehicle simulators, Car and Driver decided to use an airport taxiway and actual vehicles to test not only how dangerous distracted driving was, but to compare whether texting while driving was as dangerous as drinking and driving. Using a Honda Pilot with a red light in the dash that the passenger in the vehicle would turn on when the driver was to brake, both drivers were tested at 35 and 70 miles per hour as a baseline. For the drinking and driving simulation, the drivers were given enough alcohol to reach the 0.08 blood alcohol content limit. One test subject’s reaction time dropped from 0.45 seconds to 0.57 seconds while reading a text. However, his reaction time while impaired was 0.46 seconds, which was almost the same as his baseline. Another subject, who was older, began with a baseline of 0.57 seconds, and while texting, dropped to 1.44 seconds, while the time dropped to just 0.64 seconds after drinking.  This information explains why firms such as Frenkel & Frenkel are focusing on the dangers of texting and driving.

Because teens are more likely to text and drive than older adults, the FCC recommends giving teen drivers simple, clear instructions not to use their mobile devices while driving. In addition, parents must lead by example, as children who see their parents texting and driving are more likely to do so themselves. Become informed and active when it comes to spreading the word about texting and distracted driving. “Avoiding a ticket due to a monetary fee should not be the reason you avoid texting while driving,” says Burkett. “You should consider the damage that can be caused to yourself or to others by not having full attention on the road.”

“Avoiding a ticket due to a monetary fee should not be the reason you avoid texting while driving,” says Burkett. “You should consider the damage that can be caused to yourself or to others by not having full attention on the road.”

If you find yourself in an accident due to the negligence of a distracted driver, you need a lawyer who specializes in this field and is working diligently to hold distracted drivers responsible. Beyond cell phone use, distracted driving could include eating, tending to a child, reading, or even adjusting the radio or glancing in a mirror too long. Frenkel & Frenkel understands the pain and damage that distracted drivers can cause, which is why they work to hold them responsible for their negligence.

Frenkel & Frenkel recommends the following tips from TxDOT to reduce your risk of accidents related to distracted driving:

  • Give driving 100 percent of your attention, 100 percent of the time.
  • It’s safer to pull into a parking lot before diverting your attention to your phone or other activity.
  • Put your phone away – or turn it off – before getting behind the wheel.
  • Tell friends, family, and coworkers you won’t respond to calls or texts when driving.
  • Use a smartphone app that sends auto-reply texts when you’re behind the wheel.
  • Join us and take the It Can Wait pledge as a commitment to keep your heads up.

To connect with the personal injury lawyers of Frenkel & Frenkel, click here.

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