According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly 9 people are killed and 1,000 people injured by a distracted driver – each day. Distracted driving is dangerous for three fundamental reasons:
- Distracted drivers aren’t looking the road in front of them
- Distracted drivers don’t have their hands on the steering wheel. This makes it tough to respond to emergencies. Careful drivers have both hands on the wheel.
- Distracted drivers aren’t thinking about how to respond to dangers such as by braking, steering into a different lane, slowing down, or taking other safety measures.
Types of distracted driving
Common examples of distracted driving including
- Texting while driving
- Speaking on a smartphone or cell phone
- Using a GPS system
- Eating while driving
- Adjusting the radio
- Looking at a video
- Conversing with passengers especially those in the back seat
- Personal grooming
- Drinking a beverage such as coffee or soda
Drivers who are tired or who are under the influence of alcohol are also unable to anticipate, control, and respond to emergencies.
A momentary lapse of even a second can be fatal or cause catastrophic injuries. A car travelling at 60mph is travelling 88 feet per second – which is about 4-5 car lengths.
The CDC reports that teenagers have an especially high likelihood of driving while distracted:
- Drivers less than 20 years of age have the highest rate of distraction-related fatal accidents
- In 2015, nearly two in five high-school students said that they sent an email or text while driving in the previous 30 days. Many of these young drivers also admitted that they didn’t wear a seat-belt while they were sending these emails and texts.
Texting while driving laws in North Carolina
North Carolina enacted a strong texting while driving ban that applies to all drivers though it is especially tough on novice drivers. The law provides that adult drivers can speak on their cell phones while behind the wheel but they can NOT text while the car is in motion. The texting while driving ban applies to reading, sending, or composing a text message. It is not illegal to text if the car is stopped or is parked. Violators can be stopped by a police officer and ticketed even if they haven’t committed another traffic offense.
Drivers under the age of 18 (novice drivers) can’t text while driving. They also can’t use a cell-phone (even a hands-free phone). Novice drivers can also be stopped if they haven’t committed another traffic offense.
Bus drivers are also banned from using a cell phone while their bus is in motion – in addition to the texting while driving fan.
Texting while driving in Virginia
In Virginia, it is unlawful for any person to operate a moving motor vehicle on the highways in the Commonwealth while using any handheld personal communications device to:
- Manually enter multiple letters or text in the device as a means of communicating with another person; or
- Read any email or text message transmitted to the device or stored within the device, provided that this prohibition shall not apply to any name or number stored within the device nor to any caller identification information.
Fines are $125.00 for the first offense and $250.00 thereafter.
The dangers of driving while tired
Nearly 20 percent of all fatal car crashes are caused by a driver who is too tired – as reported by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, The foundation also found that young drivers, those between 19 and 24, were the most likely to drive while fatigued. While nearly all drivers understand the dangers of driving drowsy, most drivers still drive – even though it puts their lives, the lives of passengers, the lives of other car occupants, and the lives of pedestrians at risk.
Indicators a driver is drowsy
Drivers and occupants of the cars need to know when they need to avoid getting into the car if they’re tired or when to get off the ride if they’re getting sleepy. They’re no reason to risk a life to get somewhere a little faster. Drivers should plan to take regular rest stops. They should know where the hotels are where they can stop and sleep. Some of the signs of drowsy driving include:
- Yawning constantly
- Not remembering the most recent leg of a journey
- An inability to focus
- Shifting into other lanes of traffic
- Tailgating or getting too close to other drivers
- Near misses
- Traveling too fast
- Going through red lights
- Failing to stop for stop signs
Some recommendations for sleepy drivers include:
- Making regular rest stops for every 100 miles or for every several hours of driving time
- Get plenty of sleep before you plan a long drive
- Keep your sleep/awake patterns
- Try to have another driver so you can take turns
- Avoid medications that might make you sleepy
- Avoid relying on caffeine to keep you awake
- Don’t trust that having the radio on will keep you from getting drowsy
- Avoid using cruise control
Some automakers who are aware of the dangers of drowsy driving are working to install technology that senses when a driver is tired. The cars sound alarms and even force the car to stop. Alas, that technology does not currently exist with any reliability. All drivers are responsible for any deaths or injuries they cause due to drowsy driving.
Talk with a respected North Carolina car accident lawyer as soon as possible
In many cases, when a teenager or young driver causes death or injury, the young driver is not the owner of the vehicle. Attorney Joe Miller Esq. can explain when you can also sue the owners of the vehicle in North Carolina under the “Family Purpose Doctrine.” The car owners are generally the people who have liability insurance to pay for all your damages if the driver caused your injuries or the death of a loved one. If there is not enough insurance to cover you claim, you may be entitled to payment for your pain and suffering and economic losses from your own uninsured or underinsurance policy.
In addition, if you were on-the-clock for your employer or your travel was connected to a business trip at the time of your accident, we can, of course, handle any Workers Compensation aspects to the claim as that is also a specialty of our firm. To make an appointment with an experienced North Carolina car accident attorney, please phone (888) 694-1671 or fill out the contact form.