Distracted Drivers are a Deadly Threat

Madeleine Jones
March 9, 2017

In 2014, the NHTSA estimated that 431,000 individuals were injured in accidents involving a distracted driver. This was an increase over the 424,000 motorists who were injured in 2013. In 2015, 35,092 motorists were killed in automobile accidents which represented a 7.2% increase over the previous year and the largest single-year increase in fatalities to occur in the past 50 years. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimates that distracted driving is a factor in at least 10% of fatality accidents and officials are concerned this number will continue to increase.

The Causes of Distracted Driving

There are three primary types of distracted driving in the United States. These include visual distractions that take a driver’s eyes away from the road; manual distractions that cause the driver to take one or both hands off the wheel; and, cognitive distractions such as daydreaming or falling asleep at the wheel.

Visual Distractions – Visual distractions include activities including “rubbernecking” automobile accidents, focusing in on nearby scenery, watching television, reading texts, etc.

Manual Distractions – Manual distractions include playing with the radio controls, sending text messages, adjusting temperature controls, eating or drinking food products, etc. When visual distractions are combined with manual distractions such as texting or updating social media, the risk of being involved in an automobile accident increases by nearly 300%.

Cognitive Distractions – Cognitive distractions include thinking about things such as work, daydreaming about weekend plans, pondering relationships, etc.

Growing Problems & Increasing Concerns

In 2013, 3,154 motorists died in accidents involving distracted drivers. Alarmingly, nearly one in five accidents that year cited distracted driving as a causative factor in the accident. The fact that the numbers continue to rise has communities across the country concerned.

Of particular concern is the proliferation of smartphones in the US. Today, nearly 198.5 million people in the US own smartphones. These devices make it possible for people to send texts, update social media, watch videos, etc. while driving. In fact, over 56% of motorists have admitted to doing these activities while operating a motor vehicle even though many states including Nevada have made this behavior illegal.

According to the National Safety Council, cell phone use is responsible for upwards of 1.6 million accidents each year. Of these accidents, nearly 1 in every 4 is caused by individuals who are texting while driving. At any given time, the NHTSA estimates that up to 660,000 motorists are operating a cell phone while they are behind the wheel of an automobile.

Age, Action, and Distracted Driving

Distracted driving affects all age groups and demographics. However, it is a problem that disproportionately affects younger drivers. Roughly 10% of motorists involved in fatal crashes involving a distracted driver are between the ages of 15 and 19 years old. A further 23% of motorists killed in distracted driving accidents are in their 20’s.

Actions matter in causing these accidents. Drivers in their 20’s are responsible for causing 27% of distracted driving accidents. Moreover, they are responsible for 38% of accidents caused by cell phone usage. In fact, those who send text messages while driving are 23 times more likely to cause an accident than drivers who are not distracted while driving. This is why the majority of states have initiated total bans on text messaging for drivers, and have made using hand-held devices while operating a motor vehicle illegal.

Why Distracted Driving is so Deadly

At 55 mph, a vehicle travels the distance of a football field every five seconds. That’s roughly the same amount of time that it takes most people to read a single text message. In that time, motorists can easily miss other vehicles, pedestrians, or obstructions in the roadway. Other common distractions such as fiddling with the radio, checking social media, eating, reaching for objects can take a driver’s eyes and attention off the road for even longer.

When a driver’s attention returns to the road, it is often too late to avoid a collision. Moreover, the shock of an impending accident often causes motorists to overcorrect the vehicle’s path or speed. This can lead to secondary collisions that can injure or kill more people.

Assigning Liability for Distracted Driving Injuries & Deaths

In Nevada, distracted drivers are liable for the property damage, personal injuries, and deaths their actions cause. A car accident lawyer in Las Vegas can help motorists or their survivors determine the causes of their accident. Establishing fault for the accident can be done by reviewing surveillance videos and videos taken at the scene of the accident, reviewing cell phone usage and text messaging records, questioning eyewitnesses, and reviewing police reports including driver statements.

Drivers who cause injuries or fatalities can be held liable for medical expenses, loss of income, pain and suffering, diminished quality of life, and loss of consortium their actions cause.