We’ve written about distracted driving before, but the dangers of distracted driving continue to be a significant issue, causing extensive death and injury across the country, including here in Colorado. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, over 2,800 people died from distracted driving in 2018. That includes over 1,700 drivers, over 600 passengers, 400 pedestrians, and nearly 80 bicyclists. And over 400,000 people were injured in 2018 as a result of distracted driving.
What is Distracted Driving?Most people associate distracted driving with the use of cell phones. Whether texting, talking, or using apps, the dangers of using a cell phone while driving are well known. But distracted driving is not limited to cell phone use. Anything that takes a person’s attention away from the task of driving is considered distracted driving. This includes messing with entertainment systems and navigation systems. It includes eating and drinking. It includes interacting with passengers. It includes being distracted by scenery, people, or events happening outside the car. Also, a person who is in an emotional state can be distracted to such an extent that they are a danger to others on the road.
Distracted driving can be exacerbated based on road and traffic conditions. Driving in heavy traffic, driving on winding roads, or driving in bad weather can create an even greater need for attention to the task of driving. Distracted driving in those situations can substantially increase the likelihood of an accident.
What are the Consequences of Distracted Driving?
Distracted drivers can fail to stop and rear end other drivers. Distracted drivers can run stop signs and stop lights. Distracted drivers can fail to stay in their lane. Distracted drivers can hit pedestrians or bicyclists. Distracted Drivers can lose control of their vehicle.
Accidents caused by distracted driving can end lives, destroy families, and cause financial ruin. Thousands of people are killed and injured every year by distracted drivers. Motor vehicle accidents caused by distracted driving can cause catastrophic injuries requiring extensive medical treatment including brain injury, spinal cord injury, severe organ damage, broken bones, torn ligaments, and many other serious personal injuries. These injuries can often be permanent and disabling. Also, the pain and suffering, mental anguish, and loss of enjoyment of life that can accompany personal injuries can be severe.
Not only can personal injury caused by distracted driving lead to physical, mental, and emotional injury, but it can also lead to lost income or lost wages, loss of earning capacity, significant medical bills, property damage, and out-of-pocket costs. The costs of distracted driving can be staggering.
Deaths and injuries from distracted driving many times lead to lawsuits, where victims of distracted driving can sue the driver responsible for causing the injury or wrongful death. While monetary damages can never replace a life or heal an injury, they can help compensate a victim of distracted driving by providing funds to help pay for past and future medical and rehabilitation expenses, lost income, expenses for education or retraining, and other needs.
Sometimes a lawsuit can be brought against the employer of a distracted driver. Employers of commercial truck drivers or drivers of employer-provided vehicles are responsible for the negligence of their employees while they are acting in the course and scope of their employment. They can be held responsible when their employee injures someone due to distracted driving. Employers will typically have larger insurance policies (or be self-insured), which can help compensate seriously injured victims of distracted driving. And not only does the injured victim of distracted driving sustain damage, but distracted driving can cause irreparable harm to a business whose driver has caused an accident. A business can sustain losses due to increased insurance premiums, litigation expenses, lost productivity, and negative publicity.
Sometimes a distracted driver’s actions can be reckless, making them responsible for punitive damages. Punitive damages are intended to punish people who act in an intentional, reckless, or willful and wanton manner. For example, sometimes punitive damages are available when a driver is using a cell phone while driving—something drivers know is dangerous and reckless. Punitive damages are awarded on top of any compensatory damages.
The consequences of distracted driving are significant. An experienced distracted driving lawyer can help an injured person navigate the complexities of obtaining compensation in a distracted driving lawsuit.
What can be done to stop distracted driving?
The job of the driver is to do one thing: drive. Drivers should be fully in control of their vehicle, paying careful attention to the road and traffic, and should avoid any activity that causes distraction. A driver should have passengers in the car take care of other tasks if they are necessary, including operating entertainment systems, navigating, or using a cell phone. Drivers should avoid eating or drinking, grooming themselves, or reaching around in the vehicle.
Beyond these direct driver actions, educating drivers, especially new teen drivers, about the dangers of distracted driving is fundamental to reducing deaths and injuries resulting from distracted driving. Parents, students, doctors, educators and businesses, lawyers and law enforcement, and other government and private entities should all provide the necessary information and tools to teach drivers about the consequences of distracted driving, and they do.
Parents can help by being a good role model. Fellow students and piers can be a strong influence. Teachers and businesses can provide resources to learn about safe driving habits and discuss the impact distracted driving can have on the community. Doctors can discuss the significant injuries and medical cost impact that distracted driving can cause. Lawyers and law enforcement can discuss the legal ramifications of distracted driving and the impact of litigation or criminal proceedings. Governments and private entities can work to provide necessary resources to educate and eradicate distracted driving. Fortunately, extensive distracted driving resources from all these people, organizations, and entities, can be readily found on the internet.
Sadly, however, distracted driving is likely to continue, leading to more personal injuries and wrongful death. If you have been injured or a loved one has died as a result of a distracted driver, seeking legal help from a Denver personal injury lawyer or Colorado Springs personal injury lawyer is critical to making sure your rights are protected. When you need a dedicated, sympathetic, and talented distracted driving accident attorney with a proven track record of success who will fight for your best interests, contact Whalen Injury Lawyers today. We’re happy to offer you a free consultation with one of our distracted driving accident lawyers to review the details of your case and discuss your legal options. You can reach us in Denver at (720) 307-2666 or in Colorado Springs at (719) 644-7000 to learn more.