Residents of Virginia and elsewhere who have been out on the road recently have probably witnessed a close call by another driver due to distraction or inattention. Erratic lane changes, drifting, sudden stops, or running a traffic light are all tell-tale signs of some type of distraction.
Unfortunately, teen drivers are much more prone to distraction while driving than other age groups, and one of the chief sources of distraction for teens is cell phone use. The combination of driver inexperience and habitual cellphone use can have deadly consequences.
The crash rate per mile driven for teenagers aged 16 to 19 is three times higher than for drivers over the age of 20. According to statistics, 80% of all car accidents are due to distracted driving, including over half of all accidents involving teens. In fact, traffic accidents are the primary cause of death among teens in the United States.
What distracted driving looks like
According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), distracted driving is doing anything that takes the driver’s attention off the road. This can include looking away from the road, taking one or both hands off the wheel, or thinking about other things than the activity of driving. Some activities that can cause distraction include:
- Eating a sandwich
- Checking a GPS or changing the channel on the radio
- Calling, texting, or talking on a cellphone
- Adjusting mirrors or looking back to talk with a passenger
Reading a text while driving at 55 miles per hour is like driving the length of a football field with your eyes closed.
The heavy cost of distracted driving
Although many states including Virginia have hands-free driving laws that prohibit a driver from holding a cellphone while driving, the fines that result are not the only financial deterrent to distracted driving. The driver’s car insurance may also go up by as much as $290 per year after receiving a ticket.
If the accident results in injury or death to another driver, the other party may file a negligence claim. Virginia laws follow the legal theory of pure contributory negligence, in which the negligent party must be 100% at fault for the plaintiff to have a case. When pursuing damages, it is important to develop an effective legal strategy that will result in a favorable outcome for the injured party.