Distracted Drivers Are a Constant Danger
There is no question that distracted drivers are a major cause of accidents. People read every day about accidents that involved people talking on a cell phone, texting while driving, or otherwise distracted from what is happening on the road. The Governors Highway Association reports that in 2016 distracted drivers were a factor in traffic accidents that resulted in 3,450 fatalities. That total was more than 9 percent of all traffic deaths that year. In addition, thousands more are injured every year in accidents caused by distracted driving.
If you suffered injuries in an accident involving a distracted driver, you should explore your ability to recover compensation for your injuries. The lawyers of Brauns Law are experienced in representing clients injured in accidents involving distracted drivers. You can contact us at (404) 205-8614, or through our online contact form.
The Many Driver Distractions
The GHSA contends, probably correctly, that cell phone use and texting are among the two most common driving distractions. But while cell phones and texting are among the leading causes of driver distraction, there are many other sources of distraction for drivers. Federal statistics indicate distracted driving can arise from any number of activities that take attention away from driving, including talking on a cell phone, texting, eating or drinking, engaging in conversation with passengers in your vehicle, adjusting climate control settings, adjusting audio settings, changing radio stations, or changing settings on entertainment or navigation systems.
Obviously, then, there are many ways a driver can be distracted. The federal government divides distractions into three categories:
- Visual, meaning a physical distraction that takes your eyes away from the road and traffic
- Manual, which would include any activity that takes your hands off the wheel, including eating, drinking, adjusting a navigation, audio, climate control, or some other system, or using a cell phone to talk or text, among other things
- Cognitive, which includes any activity that takes your attention away from driving. While this could include many or all of the physical activities included in the previous category, it also would include daydreaming or turning your attention to any activity besides driving your vehicle
Obviously, there is a tremendous amount of potential for overlap of specific actions among these categories of activities, as many of them involve distraction in more than one of the CDC categories. The CDC found common tasks resulting in distracted driving include sending a text message, talking on a cell phone, using a navigation system, and eating while driving. The CDC considers sending a text to be the most distracting because it is visual, manual, and cognitive, resulting in maximum distraction.
Georgia Law Addresses Distracted Driving
Many states and localities have passed laws banning the use of cell-phones while driving, provided those phones are not hands-free. This makes sense, given that the vast majority of traffic accidents are a result of driver error. Distracted driving, which would include cell-phone use, is a significant contributor to driver error, and so many state and local governments are moving to address the problem. Georgia is no different.
As in many jurisdictions, in Georgia, cell phone use gets the bulk of legislative attention. Under recent changes in Georgia law:
- Drivers under 18 years old may not use a cell phone when driving;
- School bus drivers may not use a cell phone while loading or unloading passengers, nor while the bus is in motion; and
- Texting while behind the wheel is prohibited for all drivers.
While this legislation addresses certain problems, it is not clear how well it addresses distracted driving as a whole.
Are Hands-Free Systems the Solution?
Many statutes, local or state, favor hands-free cell phone use. The philosophy seems to be that hands-free use of a cell phone is less distracting. Research does not support that conclusion, unfortunately. A study by the National Safety Council indicates brain processing of moving images decreases by up to one-third when the driver is talking on the phone, regardless of whether the phone is hands-free.
Other recent research also indicates that use of hands-free systems is just as distracting as using a traditional cell phone. In fact, in response to state and local bans on hand-held cell phone use while driving, all automobile manufacturers now offer the option of a hands-free system, which drivers can use for voice activation of a cell phone in hands-free mode. The phone then can be used to, hands-free, talk, send a text, or interact with GPS navigation systems, music systems, and other functions that previously required the use of hands.
Unfortunately, a study for the American Automobile Association came away less than impressed with the safety “improvement” these systems purportedly offer.
A study for the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety tested hands-free systems offered by most major car makers to see how distracting the systems involved themselves are. The study found that the systems all caused distractions that were worse than talking on a hand-held cell phone. The distractions were more intense and lasted longer than distractions caused by hand-held cell-phones. The study ranked distractions on a five-point scale, from a one being a mild distraction and a five being the worst possible distraction. The researchers defined a distraction rating of two or higher as a potentially dangerous level. The study ranked talking on a hand-held cell phone as a level two distraction. Every single one of the hands-free systems tested scored higher distraction scores.
Apparently, there is no silver bullet to solve distracted driving. Realistically, that comes as no surprise. As always, the best defense against distracted driving is vigilant driving on your part. If that fails and you are involved in an accident with a distracted driver, seek legal help from experienced attorneys.
If You Suffered Injuries in an Accident with a Distracted Driver, Consult a Georgia Traffic Accident Lawyer
The lawyers of Brauns Law routinely represent clients who sustained injuries in accidents with distracted drivers. We are ready to assist you with your situation. If you want to schedule a free consultation to discuss a possible case, you can contact us at (404) 205-8614, or through our online contact form.