Many people recognize that distracted driving now rivals alcohol-impaired driving as the leading threat to traffic safety. The focus of the media, government regulators, and the public tends to revolve around portable electronic devices. While the widespread use of cell phones and the level of distraction posed by texting behind the wheel justify these concerns, the danger posed by more traditional distractions often gets overlooked. Although many people think that distracted driving is a fairly new phenomena, inattentive drivers have been causing crash-related fatalities and injuries for many years.
The tendency to ignore the danger posed by more conventional forms of driving distractions stems from the challenge in proving this form of negligence. While mobile phones generate call and message logs as well as cellular records, proving that a motorist was reaching for a soda, applying lipstick, or changing a vehicle’s sound system is much more difficult. Outside of direct observation of the distracted driving activity prior to a collision or an admission after the crash by the driver, motorist inattention tends to be difficult to prove whether in a criminal prosecution or civil lawsuit for damages.
Traditional forms of distracted driving generally remain beyond the regulatory reach of lawmakers. Laws that prevent multi-tasking behind the wheel almost exclusively address portable electronic communication technology because of the difficulty in enforcing laws that address other types of distractions, such as:
- Hygiene practices (putting on makeup, brushing hair)
- Reading books, magazines, and newspapers
- Talking to or disciplining children in the backseat
- Eating food and drinking beverages
- Reaching for or picking up objects
- Carrying on conversations with passengers
- Fidgeting with car stereos, GPS devices, and Infotainment systems
- Rubbernecking when passing traffic accidents or vehicles pulled over by law enforcement
- Reaching to clean up a spill
In most cases, traffic collisions caused by these traditional types of driving distractions will be reported by law enforcement as being caused by an unsafe lane change, failure to yield, red light/stop sign runner, or other traffic violations that result from inattention.
Admittedly, there is a legitimate reason that texting and driving receives so much attention from traffic safety experts and lawmakers. This form of unsafe driving involves inattention at all three levels of distraction, which include the following:
- Manual Distractions: This type of distraction involves a motorist removing his or her hands from the steering wheel to reach for objects or to engage in other tactile activity. Examples include unwrapping food, grabbing a beverage, reaching for an object in the glove box, or changing the volume on a car radio.
- Mental Distractions: When a driver attempts to divide attention between multiple-tasks, they are not actually “multi-tasking.” This term is a misnomer because the mind does not actually focus on two high-level functions at the same time. Instead, drivers shift attention back and forth between each activity so that at any point in time one of the tasks is not receiving any level of attention from the motorist. Examples include daydreaming, listening to an audiobook, or planning daily activities.
- Visual Distractions: This form of inattention involves a motorist diverting his or her eyes from the roadway. Because a vehicle can travel a significant distance in only a few seconds at highways speeds, drivers who decide to avert their eyes from the road ahead can face deadly consequences. Examples of this type of distraction include glancing down at a cell phone, reading e-books, and looking down to unwrap a snack.
The Handley Law Center is committed to providing persuasive legal advocacy and timely communication to victims of distracted drivers. Our Oklahoma Car Accident Lawyers offer a free consultation to evaluate your claim and discuss your legal rights and options. Call us at (405) 295-1924 to schedule an appointment in our conveniently located office in El Reno which is only a 20-minute drive from Oklahoma City.