Distracted driving has become a major public health risk across the United States. With the popularity of smartphones and other devices, rivers now have more temptation than ever to take their eyes off the road. In addition to the food and drink, children, pets, passengers, and other common distractors that have always been present, drivers are now distracted by smartphones, navigation programs, and in-vehicle entertainment systems.
These distractors have led to a plague of distracted driving. In fact, it is such a problem that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and other federal agencies have all started campaigns against distracted driving. Spreading awareness is an important step toward combating this fatal behavior. Ultimately, however, it is up to individual drivers to accept responsibility for safe driving behaviors. What follows are ten of the reasons why you should never text while driving. Read on to learn the top ten reasons not to drive from our experienced auto accident attorneys.
1.) Distracted Drivers Kill Innocent Victims
The most important reason not to text and drive is the simple fact that it often kills people. This is not a remote possibility or an infrequent occurrence. The CDC reports that approximately eight people are killed in the United States every day by distracted drivers. Here in Florida, with our large population and number of dangerous highways, we have a large share of distracted driving deaths. The simple, indisputable fact is that distracted driving kills. We all take steps every day to prevent harming others, and avoiding texting while driving is a simple behavior proven to save lives.
2.) The State Can Charge You With Homicide for Texting and Driving
Texting and driving can result in homicide charges. Manslaughter charges based on a car accident vary in different states. Here in Florida, authorities can charge a person with vehicular homicide for causing an auto accident that results in a victim’s death, something that is not speculative or out-of-date.
What follows are recent, real cases of drivers being charged with homicide after they killed someone while texting and driving:
- The Messenger reports on a woman sentenced to 10 years in prison for killing another driver while texting and driving. In addition to texting and driving, she was also speeding, intoxicated, and trying to pass another vehicle in a no-passing zone on a two-lane highway.
- The Star Tribune reports on a man who was sentenced to a year in prison and ten years of supervised probation after killing another driver while texting and driving. Notice that his sentence was much less than the woman who was also drunk, speeding, and illegally passing while texting and driving. Even so, this man still went to prison for texting and driving.
- According to NJ.com, a court sentenced a woman to five years in prison for killing a pedestrian while texting and driving. Her vehicle never made contact with the victim. The car ahead of her had stopped at a crosswalk to allow the pedestrians to cross. Because she was not paying attention, the woman crashed into the back of that car, which in turn struck and killed the victim. The defendant never saw the car ahead of her or even applied her brakes.
3.) Texting While Driving Is Illegal and Has Consequences
Even if a driver doesn’t receive a homicide charge, texting and driving can carry many other legal consequences. If the victim of an accident does survive, the state can still charge a texting driver with other crimes, such as reckless driving. They can also face traffic tickets. These can carry administrative sanctions, such as points on your driver’s license or hefty fines.
An injury victim can also sue a distracted driver in civil court, resulting in a judgment for damages, and their insurance policy limits might not be enough to cover it. And of course, after any accident, insurance carriers are likely to raise premium rates. If the accident was very serious, insurance companies might refuse to insure a driver at all. These are just some of the many consequences that someone could face after causing an accident while texting and driving, and why you should avoid it at all costs.
4.) Texting and Driving Is More Dangerous Than Drinking and Driving
Tech Times reports on a study conducted by the Transport Research Laboratory, which found texting slowed drivers’ reaction times more than alcohol or cannabis. A delayed reaction time is the findings of just one of many studies that have consistently found texting to have a worse impact on driving than alcohol.
Most drivers are aware of the risks of drunk driving. They take steps to prevent it by designating a sober driver or using the many rideshare services (such as Uber and Lyft) that have become so convenient and widely available. If drivers are willing to put this much effort into avoiding the risks of drunk driving, they should be willing to put even less effort into avoiding texting and driving.
Remove the temptation of checking your text messages by putting your phone in the backseat or trunk. Use the “do not disturb while driving” feature to let people know that you are not available when you are behind the wheel.
5.) There Are Many Hands-Free Options
Many technologies can reduce the risk of using your phone while driving. Voice-to-text features can help you send messages. Hands-free options can use earbuds or Bluetooth. Many newer vehicles have Bluetooth to automatically connect your phone to the car’s audio system when you enter the vehicle. These systems can dramatically reduce the risk of using a phone while driving.
It is, however, important not to be overly reliant on hands-free features. Many studies have found that the risk of texting and driving is the attention it requires, not the physical use of your phone. Behavioral Scientist reports that research has found little difference in the rate of driver error by those who are using handheld devices and those who are using hands-free devices. This similarity is because the effect on the driver’s attention is very nearly the same. Regardless of the hands-free law in place, Florida drivers still have a legal obligation to stay aware of hazards in the roadway and not let themselves become distracted.
6.) State Laws Will Not Stop the Consequences of a Texting and Driving Fatality
According to the Federal Communications Commission, 21 states ban the use of handheld devices while driving. Florida is one of the states that allows drivers to use hands-free features, although this allowance will not stop you from being liable for an accident. You can still be subject to a civil judgment for tan injury victim’s injuries and losses. If the victim dies, you can be charged with homicide and still face a wrongful death lawsuit from the victim’s family. The risks of texting and driving are the same regardless of what state you drive in or the current laws of that state.
7.) It Sets a Bad Example for Teen Drivers, Elderly Drivers, and New Drivers
You might not realize it, but you are setting an example for other drivers every time you get behind the wheel, especially if there is anyone else in the car with you. Even when you are driving on your own, you are still setting an example for other drivers on the road. Consider who is watching you.
There are teen drivers accustomed to constant communication through texting. There are elderly drivers whose reaction times are naturally slowing as they age. Some new drivers might have a hard time navigating traffic without added distractions.
What message do you want to send to these other drivers? Do you want to contribute to a message that it is okay to text while driving? This validation can cost lives. You might not stop other drivers from making bad choices, but you can at least avoid contributing to the problem.
8.) It Is Very Easy to Pull Over
Sometimes emergencies come up in life. You might have an urgent work situation, children who need your immediate attention, or a relative in the hospital. Situations like these are understandable and often unavoidable. They cannot, however, be allowed to distract you from the road. An avoidable auto accident is the last thing you need when you have other stressful situations in your life.
If you are expecting an urgent call, text, or email, simply pull over before you check your phone. Choose a route where you can pull over quickly if you get an urgent message. Avoid the highways. You might not have a shoulder to pull onto and, even if you do, these are very dangerous. Many accidents are caused by highway drivers who did not properly avoid someone in the emergency lane.
9.) Your Text Messages Can and Will Be Used Against You in a Court of Law
If you are involved in an auto accident, the first thing a prosecutor or plaintiff’s attorney is sure to do is subpoena your cell phone records. Your phone records will show whether you were receiving or sending phone calls or text messages in the minutes before the crash. Your private messages, phone number, and account information could all become public records if introduced in a lawsuit. The lack of privacy is just one more consequence of distracted driving that you should avoid.
10.) You Just Can’t Beat the Statistics
You might think that you can safely send text messages while driving or that you are an experienced driver who can “handle it.” The evidence is that this is simply not the case for any driver. Safe Start reports that many drivers believe they are “more skilled” or “better at multitasking” than the average driver. But this does not change the cold hard fact that you are 23 times more likely to be involved in an auto accident if you read or send text messages while driving.
Put simply, you cannot “learn” to safely use your phone while driving, in much the same way that you cannot “learn” to safely operate a vehicle after drinking. The mistaken belief that you will somehow beat the odds is a dangerous level of overconfidence that has fatal consequences for too many drivers.
So what can be done to combat overconfidence? First, all drivers need to understand the dangers of texting and drivers. Research suggests that far too many drivers still believe texting while driving is not that dangerous or is not that big of a problem. Help those around you understand how important it is not to text and drive. Here, too, set a good example, even if nobody else is in the car with you. Let your loved ones know that you do not feel safe when they are texting and driving.
In addition, employers can have an impact on their employees’ driving habits. Establish clear rules about texting while driving in company vehicles or on company time. Be sure that anyone who violates these rules experiences consequences strong enough to deter such conduct in the future. Remember, your company’s reputation and finances on the line. A single serious accident could be enough to bankrupt your company. Having a policy in place will not protect you from liability if employees are allowed to ignore it. You must actively stop the conduct to ensure that your employees do not injure or kill anyone on the roadway.
Get Experienced, Aggressive Injury Lawyers for Your Distracted Driving Case
Distracted drivers must be held accountable for the injuries they cause. By filing a car accident claim, you not only protect your legal right to compensation for your losses but also discourage other drivers from texting and driving. This can save lives.
Call an experienced car accident lawyer who will fight hard to protect your legal right to receive compensation for all of your injuries and losses, past and future.