It can be frustrating to see other drivers speeding down the road, phone in hand, paying no attention to their surroundings. Engaging with visual distractions while driving is one example of reckless and negligent driver behavior. Distracted driving significantly increases the risks of a car accident.
Fortunately, the City of Richmond has recently taken measures intended to decrease instances of distracted driving. In December, Richmond City Council passed an ordinance that prohibits cell phone use while operating a motor vehicle. Current state laws mandate that drivers cannot email or text behind the wheel. However, city officials felt that, as written, the laws were not stringent enough to substantially reduce distracted driving. The recently passed ordinance will become effective in June 2020. The ordinance prohibits drivers from even having their cell phones in their hands while driving. If you have been involved in an accident and suspect the other driver of distracted driving then speak with a car accident attorney about your recovery options.
Holding My Phone Isn’t the Same as Using My Phone!
Richmond lawmakers know that holding a cell phone is not as distracting to drivers as actively using a cell phone. Even Police Chief Will Smith acknowledged that holding a phone and using a phone are two different things. However, he stated that the best way to prevent distracted driving is to prevent drivers from making contact with their phones at all. The potential to entertain yourself or become accidentally distracted, is too risky to allow people to hold their phones while driving.
Is Using Your Cell Phone While You’re Driving Really That Bad?
Yes, drivers’ use of their cell phones is one of the primary sources of distraction while they are behind the wheel. The following statistics illustrate just how problematic cell phone use while driving can be.
- All the way back in 2013, the National Safety Council estimated that 20 percent of crashes (or 1.1 million crashes that year) involved handheld and hands-free cell phone use.
- In 2018, nearly 5,000 individuals died due to cell phone use behind the wheel.
- The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration recently reported that texting and driving is six times more dangerous than drunk driving.
Distracted driving refers to any driver behavior that takes your eyes off the road, hands off the wheel, or mind off driving. Using your phone to text, email, surf the web, or play games while you drive is distracted driving. Distracted driving is one of the leading causes of car accident fatalities nationwide. Drivers who insist on engaging in these behaviors put everybody around them at risk.
Even quick moments of glancing down at your phone can lead to injury and death. The CDC reports that sending or reading a text while driving takes an average of five seconds. In just five seconds, passenger vehicles moving at 55 miles per hour will travel the distance of a football field. Any amount of time that a driver looks away from the road while driving can substantially increase the risks of an accident.
Incomplete Data and the Stats
The available statistics concerning cell phone use and distracted driving are shocking. Even more shocking is the fact that cell phone crashes are severely under-reported. Under-reported instances of cell phone use leading to collisions hinder efforts to improve our laws and save lives.
Over half of all states lack fields in their police crash reports to capture texting or hands-free cell phone use. As a result, over half of the car accidents that occur across the country each year could potentially involve cell phone use. However, without adequate means to report the behavior, meaningful data conveying the actual effects of cell phone use while driving is lacking.
Voice-to-Text and Hands-Free Cell Phone Use is Dangerous, Too
Some drivers insist on holding their phones to talk or text “hands-free.” However, both practices are actually just as dangerous as on-screen activity behind the wheel. Obviously, holding your phone in your hand takes that hand off the wheel, which increases the risk of accidents. Holding your phone while using audio commands or chatting to a friend still leaves you susceptible to temptation.
What many of us fail to recognize is that voice-to-text and hands-free use both still equate to distracted driving. Even if your hands never touch your mobile phone, the auditory and cognitive distractions alone are enough to increase the risk of accidents. The CDC states that drivers who are talking on their cell phones fail to see as much as 50 percent of their surroundings. Distractions that take driver’s minds off driving may result in their failure to observe pedestrians, red lights, and roadway obstacles.
Types of Distracted Driving
Unfortunately, there are a variety of circumstances that can lead to distracted driving. Cell phone use is merely one example. Vehicle occupants can distract drivers from the safe operation of their vehicle, e.g., young children or rowdy pets. In some cases, extreme stress or emotion might distract a driver’s mind from the road, which can increase the risks of a severe collision.
Most experts agree that three key distractions pull driver’s attention away from the road. Cell phone use can fall under each of the categories, depending on how a driver is using the phone. Types of distractions include:
- Visual distractions | Visual distractions are easy to understand. These distractions pull a driver’s eyes away from the road. Anything that causes you to divert your eyes from the road—even for a moment—is a visual distraction. Glancing to check a GPS direction, phone screen, radio setting, or fussing baby in the backseat could lead to an accident.
- Manual distractions | These distractions involve drivers removing one or both of their hands from the wheel. Common practices, like eating or drinking while driving, qualify as manual distractions. More extreme instances of manual distractions might involve digging through a messy backpack or adjusting items in the backseat.
- Cognitive distractions | Any mental distraction that occurs while driving is a cognitive distraction. Even seemingly trivial distractions, like speaking to a passenger or listening to a podcast, could seriously distract drivers from their surroundings.
One of the easiest ways to avoid distracted driving is to turn off and put away your cell phone. Cell phones are one of several distractions that can be especially dangerous due to their wide range of capabilities. You’ll likely never be able to ensure that a drive is truly distraction-free. However, removing your phone from the equation could make your efforts much more efficient.
A Car Accident Lawyer Can Help You
If you or a loved one were in a car accident involving cell phone use or distracted driving, don’t hesitate to contact a car accident lawyer who offers free consultations for potential clients and who can evaluate the facts of your case. Nobody deserves to suffer in silence. Partnering with a reliable legal team can help you gain a knowledgeable voice to help represent your interests.