Distracted driving has quickly become a serious nationwide problem, with a significant number of auto accidents directly attributed to driver distraction. According to a 2015 NHTSA vehicle crash overview, distracted driving fatalities rose at a greater percentage during 2015 than those for impaired driving, drowsy driving, exceeding the speed limit and failure to wear a seat belt. Although it is difficult to get absolute numbers regarding distracted driving (it is hard to prove, and few drivers will admit their distraction), NHTSA numbers indicate 3,477 people killed and 391,000 injured in motor vehicle crashes involving distracted drivers in 2015 alone. Drivers between the ages of 15 and 19 have the highest risk of having a distraction-related auto accident, although no age group is exempt from driving distractions. Research done by State Farm Insurance indicates that while 82 percent of drivers agree that using a cell phone while driving is very risky, 50 percent do it anyway. A full 95 percent of drivers agree that sending or reading a text while driving is extremely dangerous—yet 35 percent say they still send and read texts while driving. Other forms of distracted driving include interactions with children in the back seat, talking to passengers, interactions with unsecured pets, eating and drinking, attempting to set or read a GPS device and changing auto controls for radio, heater, A/C, etc.
What are the Signs of a Distracted Driver?So, how do you know if the driver who hit you was distracted at the time? This can be a difficult question to answer, because it may not always be obvious that a driver was distracted in some way, and few drivers will admit to a distraction following an accident. Of course, if you actually see a driver with a cell phone in his or her hand or see a driver who appears to be looking at his or her lap, that is definitely a warning sign. If you are driving at night, you may see the light coming from the driver’s phone, illuminating his or her face. If you see someone who is obviously texting, drop back or move away. If you see a driver with an obviously angry expression, or a driver making angry gestures, he or she could be having an argument over the phone or having an argument with a passenger. Either way, this is a distraction which could lead to an accident. Seeing a driver with a burger or a taco in their hand is also a sign you should stay as far away as possible from that vehicle. Drivers may drop or spill food or drink in their lap, then attempt to clean it off while driving—definitely risky behaviors. In general, if you see another driver who does not have both hands on the wheel and seems to be paying attention to anything other than the road and other drivers, avoid that driver to the extent possible.
If I See Signs of a Distracted Driver What Should I Do?Anytime you notice an obviously distracted driver, you need to get as far away from that driver as humanly possible. If you are on a freeway and are not about to exit, drop back and move over as far as you can. If you are on a two-lane road and you see that the driver in front of you is obviously distracted, pull over as soon as you safely can do so, allowing the driver some time to get ahead of you. While it may be an annoyance to take the time to avoid an obviously distracted driver, you could actually be avoiding a collision—and potentially even saving your own life and the lives of your passengers.
If I’m Hit by a Distracted Driver What Steps Should I Take?If you are hit by a distracted driver, the basic steps you will take following the accident are the same, although there may be a few additional steps you need to take. Make sure you do the following after any auto accident:
- Call the police. This is essential, even if your accident seems relatively minor. Often, the other party may ask you to just exchange information and forego calling the police. They may be in a hurry, you may be in a hurry, and it can seem like a reasonable request. Be aware that this is virtually never a good idea. The other driver could give you information which is not accurate or could tell you he or she has insurance when, in fact there is no insurance. Further, without a police report, the other driver could change his or her story after the fact. A police report provides an unbiased account of the collision details and can be invaluable in proving the other driver was at fault.
- Obtain all the information you can from the other driver regarding contact information, insurance policy number and make, model and license plate number of the other driver’s vehicle. If you are not hurt too badly, take photos of the scene of the accident, the damage to the vehicles, the other car’s license plate, and other photos which show the surrounding area.
- Obtain witness statements. This can be especially important if you believe the other driver was distracted. Perhaps a witness saw the driver using a cell phone or engaging in some other type of distraction before the accident occurred. If there were witnesses, make sure you obtain contact information from each person.
- Seek medical attention. All too often, those involved in an auto accident refuse medical attention because they do not think they are hurt seriously injured. Then, when the adrenaline wears off, they realize their injuries are much more serious than they originally thought. Unfortunately, it can be exponentially more difficult to obtain compensation for your injuries if you do not seek treatment immediately following your accident.
- Keep careful records. As soon as you can, write down every single detail related to the accident that you can remember. No detail is too small, or too insignificant, and a detail you thought was unimportant may prove to be extremely valuable in proving your auto accident claim. Keep a file with every medical expense related to your injuries from the auto accident. It will be much easier for your Virginia car accident attorney to prove your case when he or she has the necessary evidence to do so.
- Contact a Virginia car accident attorney immediately. The sooner you contact an experienced Virginia car accident attorney, the better your outcome is likely to be. Your attorney can explain the entire process to you, then will work hard on your behalf to obtain a favorable settlement following your car accident with a distracted driver.