Smartphones, as we know them, have only been around for about 15 years, but in that time, they have become a focus of our lives. They've given us many beneficial conveniences. But they've also created new dangers, especially behind the wheel.
Texting and driving has emerged as a persistent and deadly threat on U.S. roads. Here are the latest alarming statistics about the extreme dangers of texting and driving and some observations about the role personal injury lawyers play in combating the problem.
An off-the-Charts-Dangerous Driving Activity
The dangers of texting and driving are so extreme that they sometimes seem to defy explanation.
Tell your friends about these statistics to scare them out of picking up a phone behind the wheel.
- Texting involves manual, visual, and cognitive tasks, making it one of the most potent and dangerous types of driver distraction. (CDC)
- Texting and driving is the functional equivalent of letting go of the wheel and blindfolding yourself while your car is moving. (CDC)
- At highway speeds, a car travels more than the length of a football field in the time it takes to read or send a text. (CDC)
- The human brain is incapable of driving safely and texting at the same time—cell phone multitasking is a lie for drivers. (National Safety Council)
- Texting drivers show the same lack of driving abilities as drunk drivers. (Strayer, et al.)
- Texting or manipulating a device while driving multiplies crash risk by two to six times. (Insurance Institute for Highway Safety)
A Massive and Deadly Epidemic
Texting and driving is everywhere, all the time, despite the obvious dangers and predictably tragic consequences.
Consider these hair-raising facts about the scope of the current texting and driving epidemic.
- An estimated 80 percent of American drivers use a cell phone behind the wheel, according to cell phone subscription data. (National Conference of State Legislatures)
- At any given moment, an estimated 3.4 percent of drivers are texting or manipulating a device. (NHTSA)
- 23 percent of drivers report having typed or sent a text or email behind the wheel in the past 30 days, and 34 percent have read a text or email. (AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety)
- 87 percent of commuters who drive multitask on the road, and their most common activities include reading emails (18 percent), responding to emails (9.5 percent), and browsing and messaging (5.7 percent). (Teodorovicz, et al.)
- About 3,000 people die every year because of distracted driving, and hundreds of thousands more suffer injuries. (CDC, NHTSA)
- At least 12 percent of fatal distracted driving accidents involved cell phone use, and that is likely a drastic underestimate. (NHTSA, Insurance Institute for Highway Safety)
- Despite widespread recognition of the dangers, roughly one in five drivers still think they can safely text and drive at least some of the time, and nearly one in ten think they can do so most of the time. (Gliklich et al.)
A Critical Threat to Teen Drivers
Texting and driving represents a particularly high-risk activity for teen drivers.
Here is the most recent data about that troubling trend.
- 39 percent of U.S. high school students who drive report having texted or emailed behind the wheel in the past 30 days, with the highest rates among 17-year-olds (51 percent) and 18+-year-olds (60 percent). (Yellman et al.)
- Texting and driving is equally common among male and female teen drivers. (Yellman et al.)
- Of all groups of drivers involved in fatal car accidents, drivers ages 15-20 have the highest rates of distraction. (NHTSA)
- Teens and young adults who engage in cell phone use while driving also tend to engage in other risky driving behaviors like speeding and running red lights. (Walshe et al.)
Aggressive Responses Continue, But Even Solutions Pose Problems
Public officials and private industry have mounted an increasingly aggressive response to the plague of texting and driving.
Here are some notable facts about the current consequences of sending and receiving texts behind the wheel.
- Forty-eight states, D.C., Puerto Rico, Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands, and the U.S. Virgin Islands currently outlaw texting and driving. (Governor's Highway Safety Association)
- Most states allow police officers to cite drivers for texting and driving, and subject drivers to increasing penalties like fines and even jail time for repeat offenses. (GHSA)
- The nationwide explosion in distracted driving accidents since smartphones came into widespread use, undoubtedly fueled by texting and driving, correlates with a 16 percent increase in auto insurance premiums since 2011. (National Association of Insurance Commissioners)
- Research suggests that although safer than hand-held texting, sending text messages by voice while driving is also a dangerous distraction. (Monzer et al.)
Personal Injury Lawyers Play a Key Role in Combating Texting and Driving
Despite the efforts of legislatures and insurance companies, the data above leave little doubt that texting and driving remains a serious and pressing problem in the United States. Like many challenges at the intersection of public health and public policy, personal injury lawyers also have a vital role to play in addressing the impact of texting and driving over the long term.
Lawyers Secure Compensation for Texting and Driving Victims
Personal injury attorneys work to secure compensation for victims of other people's wrongful decisions and actions. They do so by enforcing a core principle of our legal system: that we hold wrongdoers legally and financially accountable for the physical, emotional, and monetary damages their actions inflict on others.
Texting and driving, as we've seen, needlessly causes thousands of motor vehicle accidents annually. Many of those crashes leave behind grieving families or individuals suddenly confronted with catastrophic injuries. The law permits those victims to hold the driver who caused that suffering accountable.
Every texting and driving accident causes unique harm.
But in general, a skilled personal injury lawyer can take legal action to secure payment for victims':
- Medical expenses involved in treating accident-related injuries and resulting health complications;
- Other expenses flowing from the accident and the injuries it caused, including funeral and burial expenses in the event of a fatal crash;
- Lost income from missing work because of an injury ;
- Lost future earning potential due to an injury that leaves the victim disabled, limits the victim's job prospects, or causes an untimely death;
- Physical pain, emotional suffering, inconvenience, and overall loss of enjoyment of life; and
- After a fatal accident, loss of companionship or consortium with a loved one who died.
In some cases, a lawyer can also convince a court to award punitive damages to the victim, which serves as a measure of extra punishment for the texting driver's extreme disregard for human safety.
Of course, the money a personal injury lawyer can secure for a texting and driving accident victim cannot erase the trauma of a crash or the pain of a loss. But the financial support it supplies can be used to pay bills, replace income, and establish a foothold for the future. In that sense, a personal injury lawyer's efforts aim to correct as much harm as possible flowing from a texting and driving crash.
Lawyers Put Pressure on Texting Drivers (and Their Insurers) to Change Their Behaviors
The work personal injury lawyers do for victims of texting and driving accidents also serves a second, broader purpose. In addition to addressing the damage done in an individual crash, each legal action a victim's lawyer takes against a texting driver, and that driver's auto insurer adds to the growing body of law recognizing the tragic consequences of texting behind the wheel.
The cumulative effect of those cases is to put pressure on all stakeholders—drivers, policymakers, and insurers—to take meaningful steps to change driver behaviors. Just as personal injury law has played a leading role in keeping the public safe from dangerous products and unsafe workplaces, over time, it will contribute to saving lives on U.S. roads and ending the scourge of texting and driving.
What to Do if You Become a Texting and Driving Statistic
Victims of texting and driving accidents often feel as if their world has been turned upside down. They may struggle to know where to turn for help or what steps to take to protect themselves and their families. If you find yourself in the unfortunate position of having become a texting and driving accident statistic, following the tips below can help put you on the path to physical, emotional, and financial recovery.
Prioritize Medical Care
As the victim of a texting and driving accident, your first priority should be making sure you get the medical care you need to start down the path to healing from your injuries. That usually means going to the doctor immediately, often in the back of an ambulance.
Even if you think you escaped a texting and driving crash without more than a few bumps and bruises, we encourage you to go to the doctor for a check-up as soon as possible. You cannot necessarily trust yourself to know whether you've suffered a severe injury. Some trauma, including brain injuries and spinal cord damage, might not show symptoms and can worsen without immediate care.
By seeking medical care, you also ensure that records exist of any injuries a doctor finds. Those records can often serve as valuable evidence to support a claim against the texting driver who caused your crash.
Speak With an Experienced Attorney Immediately
The statistics above reflect that texting and driving may go underreported. That's often because at-fault drivers do not readily admit to texting before a crash, and police fail to investigate the driver's cell phone records.
In other words, you cannot count on easy access to the evidence your lawyer might need to prove that a texting driver caused your injuries. A lawyer may need to take quick action on your behalf to locate and secure that evidence before it goes missing or gets deleted by the driver's cell phone provider. The sooner you contact an experienced lawyer after getting hurt in a crash, the better your odds of proving that texting and driving contributed to what happened and the stronger your case for damages against the driver.
Beware of Unsolicited Settlement Offers
The more texting and driving gains recognition as a dangerous behavior for which drivers must be held accountable, the greater the incentive drivers' auto insurance companies will have to settle potential injury claims cheaply. One way they do that is by contacting accident victims directly and offering them quick cash settlements.
As the victim of a texting and driving accident, you may receive an offer like that. But beware: what seems like easy money may come with legal strings attached that put your rights in serious jeopardy. Most offers made directly to crash victims like you fall well short of the amount you have the right to demand as damages, and require you to give up all future rights to sue the texting driver for your injuries and losses.
In most texting and driving accident cases, the most reliable way to ensure that an insurance company (or an at-fault driver) pays you the maximum compensation available is to entrust your case to a skilled personal injury lawyer.
Contact a Car Accident Lawyer Today
Texting and driving will not likely go away anytime soon. Convincing the public to turn away from a dangerous driving behavior takes time, effort, and commitment from all corners of society. For now, we can unfortunately expect texting and driving accidents to continue causing mayhem and trauma on America's roads.
If you fall victim to a texting driver, however, you can play a part in the solution. By taking legal action against the driver and driver's insurance company, you stand a good chance of securing money damages to pay for your own injuries and losses, and of doing your part in moving our driving culture in the direction of safe and responsible use of cell phones.
Dolman Law Group Accident Injury Lawyers, PA
800 N. Belcher Road
Clearwater, FL 33765
Phone: (727) 451-6900
Fax: (727) 451-6907