Your Legal Rights at Work

What You Need to Know About Distracted Driving

by Lewis Hamilton

More than 3,000 people were killed and 430,000 people were injured as a result of distracted driving in 2014 (the most recent year for which such statistics are available). According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Board, 10 percent of these drivers were teenagers (between 16 and 19 years of age) and another 23 percent were in their twenties.

What is distracted driving?

The term distracted driving encompasses a vast number of actions. While the most common is talking on a cell phone or texting while driving, distracted driving also includes eating or drinking, talking to other passengers, setting your car's navigation system, changing the station on the radio or inserting a new CD, or even watching a DVD (yes, people really do this) while driving. In fact, an Erie Insurance study reported that drivers do all varieties of dangerous things while driving, including putting on makeup, brushing their teeth, and changing clothes!

How widespread is distracted driving?

At any given (daylight) moment, more than 542,000 drivers are using cell phones or other mobile devices, according the National Occupant Protection Use Survey. While the number decreased slightly from the previous year's study, it still accounts for approximately 3.8 percent of the drivers on the road. The Erie Insurance study found that one-third of those surveyed admitted to having texted while driving.

Why is distracted driving a problem?

While glancing away from the road may not seem like a big deal, a lot can happen in the average five seconds that a person's eyes are diverted when texting. (When travelling at 55 mph, that's enough time to cover the length of an entire football field.) A car could stop suddenly in front of you, a child or pet could run across the road, or a car could swerve into your lane.

If you or someone you care about has been hurt as a result of a distracted driver, you need a personal-injury lawyer to represent your interests. Relying on the other party's insurance company to get you the best offer possible is rarely a good idea. It's wise to remember that they work for the defendant, not for you. Most personal-injury attorneys offer a free initial consultation and will often work on a contingency basis. That means you will not have to pay them a retainer. They will bill you when (and if) they collect from the other party's insurance company.