Driver distraction has become an epidemic on American roads, particularly as the prevalence of communication technologies increases by the year. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, distractions while driving killed an estimated more than 3,500 people in 2021 alone. Even though most people are aware that distracted driving increases the risk of having or causing an accident, many drivers still engage in activities they know to be distracting while operating a motor vehicle. An experienced New Hampshire personal injury attorney may be able to provide knowledgeable assistance to individuals who have been injured in accidents caused by distracted drivers. They may also be able to help you defend yourself if the insurance company or another party involved in the crash is trying to argue that you were distracted or otherwise at fault for the collision. The Meredith, New Hampshire attorneys with Friedman & Bresaw, PLLC are dedicated to not only raising awareness about the dangers of distracted driving, but to defending the rights of individuals who have been involved in automobile accidents in which distractions played a role. Call (603) 707-4800 today to schedule a free consultation to review your case.
What Is Distracted Driving?
Distracted driving is the act of driving while engaging in an activity or combination of activities that divert a person’s attention away from the safe operation of a motor vehicle. This divided attention in turn increases the risk of a preventable accident, sometimes with tragic results. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recognizes three main types of driving distractions:
- Visual. A visual distraction requires the motorist to look away from the roadway. Examples of activities that may cause a driver to take their eyes off the road include texting, scrolling through social media feeds, checking the navigation system, looking for lost items on the floor or in the backseat, or even looking at things outside the vehicle.
- Manual. A manual distraction requires the motorist to take their hands off the steering wheel for any amount of time, even a few seconds. Examples of activities during which the driver’s one or both hands may not be on the wheel include eating, smoking, drinking, holding the cell phone, adjusting the radio, or setting up their GPS route while driving.
- Cognitive. A cognitive distraction occurs when the motorist’s mind wanders instead of being focused on driving as the primary mental task. Examples of activities in which a driver’s mind may wander away include talking on the phone, having a conversation with passengers in the vehicle, worrying about work or family matters, daydreaming, and experiencing strong emotions.
While the CDC does not mention it, some authorities posit a fourth type of distracted driving that can be just as dangerous as the ones discussed above: auditory distractions, which can occur when the motorist is exposed to any noises or sounds that affect their ability to hear what is happening on the road and cause them to take their attention away from driving. Examples of auditory distractions while driving include listening to loud music or podcasts, having a conversation with passengers, and screaming children in the backseat, among others.
The Danger of Distractions While Driving
Being distracted while operating a vehicle can be dangerous for several reasons. Some of the most common include:
- Missing road signs and traffic signals. When a driver is distracted, he or she is less likely to notice road signs and traffic signals.
- Losing track of the speed. Because of distractions while driving, a driver may not be fully aware of their speed, which may cause them to drive too slow or too fast for traffic conditions.
- Missing the presence of others. Distracted driving may interfere with the motorist’s ability to pay attention to their surroundings. At highway speeds, inattention poses significant risk in even very short intervals, as the driver may not register the presence of a pedestrian, another vehicle, a roadway obstruction, or other potential hazard until it is too late.
- Losing control of the vehicle. Being distracted while driving, especially when the motorist takes their hands off the wheel, increases the risk of losing control of the vehicle.
- Not being able to react to hazards in time. Because distractions may affect alertness and awareness, distracted drivers often have worse reaction times.
- Losing track of the route. When a driver is distracted, he or she is more likely to perform risky maneuvers such as abruptly changing lanes or turning at the last second.
All of these factors put the distracted driver and others who share the road with them in danger, and consequently increase the risk of being involved in an automobile accident. If you have been involved in a distracted driving accident in Meredith or other parts of Belknap County, an attorney with Friedman & Bresaw, PLLC may be able to review your case with you and help you understand your options.
How To Avoid Distracted Driving
Many drivers consider distracting activities such as eating, drinking, talking on the cell phone, or even texting no big deal. In many cases, it is not easy to convince drivers to avoid distractions while driving. This resistance may be primarily because the distracting activities have become habits. These repetitive behaviors often become deeply ingrained in the neural pathways, which makes them difficult or even impossible to break. Those who care about their own safety and the safety of others should implement practical tips on how to avoid distracted driving:
- Do not use your cell phone while driving (except in emergency situations). Regardless of what you want to do, it is never a good idea to use your cell phone while operating a motor vehicle. This basic principle applies regardless of whether the intended use of the phone is for making a phone call, sending or reading a text, or even changing a music track. Even in emergency situations, it may be safer to pull over to call 911 than to dial while driving. In addition, if you get caught using your cell phone while behind the wheel, you may be ticketed for distracted driving in New Hampshire. Under the General Court of New Hampshire, it is against the law to use a hand-held cell phone while driving or being stopped in traffic.
- Limit the level of activity inside the vehicle. When driving with passengers, you are likely to experience cognitive and auditory distractions trying to engage in a conversation. Looking at your passengers while talking can also be a visual distraction. Driving with small children or pets may also divert your attention from the road; plan ahead to make all passengers as comfortable as possible in order to minimize distractions.
- Do not eat/drink while driving. Many drivers think they can manage eating or drinking while operating a motor vehicle without jeopardizing their safety. While eating a hotdog or burger and sipping on coffee may seem harmless, keep in mind that holding something in one or both hands constitutes a manual distraction. In addition, food or drink spills can compromise your control over the vehicle.
- Avoid multitasking. Drivers tend to overestimate their ability to multitask when driving. Those who spend a lot of time driving may think it is the perfect time to get some things done, including calling their parents or friends, saving music to their playlists, or even sending or reading a text message. Instead of trying to do multiple things at once, focus on one thing: the road. When you arrive at your destination safely, you can take care of other tasks.
Many drivers think there is no harm in engaging in distracting activities every once in a while. However, just because a driver has not experienced negative consequences from distracted driving yet does not mean that driving distracted poses no risks. There is no guarantee you will not end up in a devastating car accident the next time you pick up your phone to send another text while driving.
Get the Guidance You Need
Being involved in a car accident is always a distressing ordeal, and can be emotionally and financially overwhelming, as well as physically painful. However, you do not have to go through the experience and recovery alone. The experienced New Hampshire attorneys at Friedman & Bresaw, PLLC, provide compassionate legal representation to people involved in automobile accidents in Belknap County and around the state. A dedicated attorney can represent injured victims hurt in accidents with distracted drivers and those blamed for engaging in distractions while driving. Seek representation from an attorney who will fight on your behalf to build a strong, persuasive case and help you clear your name or get the compensation you deserve. Call (603) 707-4800 today to schedule your free consultation.