young woman driver using cellphone while drivingDistracted driving occurs anytime a motorist’s attention is diverted from the task of driving.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), hundreds of thousands of distracted driving accidents result in more than 3,000 fatalities annually in the U.S. They estimate that at least 14% of all traffic accidents, 15% of injury accidents, and nearly 10% of fatal vehicle accidents result from distracted driving.

While nearly all drivers surveyed agree that cellphone use by a motorist is dangerous and unacceptable, more than 35% of those drivers admit to sending or reading a text message or email while driving within the past 30 days, according to the American Automobile Association (AAA) Foundation for Traffic Safety. In Virginia, more than 8,000 injury crashes and more than 100 fatal crashes result from distracted driving annually.

Types of Driving Distractions

The distractions that divert a driver’s attention are categorized as manual, visual, or cognitive.

Manual Distractions Take the Driver’s Hands Off the Steering Wheel

  • Cellphone use (dialing or texting)
  • Adjusting a radio
  • Adjusting mirrors
  • Setting a GPS device
  • Eating or drinking
  • Lighting or putting out cigarettes
  • Reaching for items on the floor or in another seat
  • Grooming activities such as combing hair, applying makeup, or shaving with an electric razor plugged into the car’s electrical socket

Visual Distractions Divert the Driver’s Eyes From the Road

  • Looking at a tablet, computer, phone, or interactive car screen
  • Turning one’s head to talk to a passenger
  • Checking on children in the car
  • Looking at sights, billboards, or accidents on or near the road

Cognitive Distractions Affect a Motorist’s Thoughts

  • Conversations or arguments with passengers
  • Talking on the phone
  • Worrying about travel time or a delivery schedule (in the case of a commercial driver)
  • Supervising children
  • Playing music too loudly or getting too involved in listening to radio programming

The most common causes of distracted-driving wrecks in Virginia are talking or texting on a cellphone, conversing with passengers, adjusting a radio or other device, and looking at accident scenes or other sights on or near the road. 

The Major Risk of Cell Phone Use Behind the Wheel

Cellphones are the leading cause of driver distraction in Virginia and across the country today. Researchers at the University of Utah and the Virginia Technical Transportation Institute report that:

  • Talking on a cellphone impairs a driver to the same degree that a blood-alcohol concentration of 0.08% does.
  • A motorist using a cellphone is more than five times as likely to have an accident as an undistracted driver is.
  • The risk of a crash for a commercial driver who sends or reads text messages behind the wheel is more than 20 times as high as that of an undistracted driver.

According to NHTSA, the eyes of a driver texting at highway speed are off the road long enough for the vehicle to travel the length of a football field. Driving blind for 100 yards creates a risk of catastrophic injury or death for everyone near the texting driver on the road.

Proving That a Distracted Driver Caused Your Accident

Evidence of distracted driving can be hard to obtain because much of it exists inside the vehicle of the at-fault driver, who might be able to hide or destroy it before it’s found. This means that proving an at-fault driver caused your wreck due to distraction could be a difficult task. The at-fault driver’s insurance company will make it even harder by looking for ways to dispute, devalue, deny, or delay your damage claim. An experienced car accident attorney, however, can investigate your crash with the help of an accident reconstructionist, collect evidence to prove liability, and help you seek fair compensation.

Cell Phone Records

Your lawyer can get and analyze cellphone records to prove the at-fault driver was texting, talking, using phone apps, or browsing the internet shortly before the time of your crash. Your attorney can also request a court order to examine the phone itself for metadata and evidence of time-stamped social media use.

Police Report

Your attorney will know how to obtain a copy of the police report of your accident, which could include details such as food or beverage containers or cosmetic products that were found inside the car. Even the presence of a phone on the car seat or dashboard could be evidence of negligent distracted driving that might help you prove your claim.

Video Footage

Your lawyer can get a court order to view video footage from any nearby security cameras that might have recorded your accident.

On-Board Devices

GPS units and computers in some newer vehicles keep records of speed and driver activity, such as braking and accelerating, which could support your claim. If your crash is caused by a commercial vehicle, your attorney can obtain important data from the data recorder on board.

Andrew Thomas
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Working with Andrew and his team has been--without exception--one of the most pleasant, productive, and professional experiences of my adult life. I was seriously injured in an accident in July, 2018, in Virginia. I was driving a company vehicle that was registered in Maryland, for a company that was based in Wisconsin. And I live in New Jersey, where my personal vehicles are insured. The several jurisdictions involved presented a very unique case that demanded an experienced and nuanced strategy. I found Andrew Thomas (of Dulaney, Lauer, & Thomas) through some online research. And it is noteworthy that Andrew has worked the other side of the aisle--he used to work with insurance companies. Andrew took on my case with the assurance that he would work it with no less energy than he does each of his cases. At each turn, and with each question I had, Andrew and Paralegal Misty kept me informed, returned my calls, provided detailed explanations, and kept me feeling like I was in the loop and there was an eventual end to our journey. Nearly five years after the accident, we settled out of court for a significant sum in recognition of my personal injuries. The settlement was much more than I had expected. And without Andrew & Misty, I am sure the award would have been much less. If you are looking for professionalism, knowledge, dedication, answerability, responsiveness, integrity, and human-level communication from a personal injury attorney--look no further. You have found him. Thank you, Andrew and Misty. Gary Daley
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