In April of 2014, the United States Department of Transportation launched distracted driving awareness month, which included nationwide advertising and new strategies for law enforcement to crack down on texting and other dangerous activities diverting a person’s attention away from the task of driving. Distractions endanger drivers, passengers, and bystanders. In 2012, 3,328 people were killed and 421,000 injured in distraction-related motor vehicle crashes. A 2013 survey by the Michigan Office of Highway Safety Planning found 1 in 6 Michigan drivers admit to texting while driving. Drivers in their 20s make up 27 percent of the distracted drivers in fatal crashes, but the problem is pervasive for all age groups. Technology advancements have magnified the problem. With smartphones that text e-mail, and search the internet, accidents by distracted driving continue to rise. It is important to educate all Americans about types of distracted driving, the dangers, State laws regulating driver use of electronic devices, and legal rights of victims injured in accidents caused by distracted drivers.
Types of Distracted Driving
There are three main types of driving distractions:
- Visual – taking your eyes off the road
- Manual – taking your hands off the wheel
- Cognitive – taking your mind off of what you’re doing
Examples of distracting activities include:
- Using a cell phone or texting
- Eating or drinking
- Talking to passengers
- Reading, including maps
- Using a navigation system
- Watching a video
- Adjusting a radio station, CD, or MP3 player
Michigan Law on Distracted Driving
In many states or large metropolitan areas, it is illegal to talk on a cell phone while driving. Michigan does not currently regulate mobile phone use while driving, but allows municipalities to make their own laws. Detroit has two laws on cell-phone use while driving:
- Hand Free Ordinance: bans using cell phone while driving, unless using a hands free device.
- Distracting Behavior Ordinance: bans distracting behaviors (other than talking on a cell phone), including, applying makeup and eating while driving.
In 2010, Governor Jennifer Granholm signed a texting ban that forbids drivers from sending text messages while driving (Michigan Consolidated Laws 257.602b). Fines are $100 for the first offense, and $200 for subsequent offenses. The law is regarding focuses on text messaging, not other cell phone applications, such as playing games, reading or writing e-mails, checking Facebook, or watching a streaming sports game. A person using a cell phone in other ways other than texting can be ticketed for distracted driving. Michigan State Police clarify: “A driver who becomes distracted by using a cell phone, and commits a traffic violation could be charged with careless driving, or with the specific violation, such as improper lane use, if they are drifting in and out of their lane.”
Distracted Driving and Traffic Accidents
In 2012, distracted driving caused over 5,000 traffic accidents in Michigan. Innocent people injured in the accidents have legal rights to be reimbursed for harms and losses. First, they can seek no-fault insurance benefits from their motor vehicle insurer for resulting medical expenses, lost wages, attendant care, and vehicle damage. In addition, the injured person can pursue a third party claim against the at-fault, negligent distracted driver for severe injuries, permanent disfigurement, or death. If you believe distracted driving caused a motor vehicle accident, seek the help of an excellent catastrophic injury attorney to investigate. Appropriate investigation can determine if distracted driving caused the accident, by obtaining witness statements, cell phone records, credit card charges, receipts, and other evidence.
Promotion of Safe Driving
Practice safe driving and promote safe non-distracted driving to family and friends. To make America’s roadways safer, we must all campaign against distracted driving and for tougher enforcement. Here are a few things you can do to reduce this epidemic:
- Prepare for your ride: If you’re prepared, a lot of distracted driving activities can be eliminated. Eat and groom before you get in the car, and plug in the GPS, enter the destination, and tune the radio before putting the car into gear and driving.
- Lead by example: If you are a parent, lead by example and do not get distracted when you’re behind the wheel. Parents should enforce household rules prohibiting teens or young-adult children from texting or engaging in other distracting behaviors while driving. Be a good passenger and speak out if a family member or friend driving is distracted.
- Pull over to send or read a text or e-mail: If you must send or read a text or e-mail, first pull over into a safe, well-lit area away from traffic before you do so.
- Ask a passenger to help. Ask a passenger to help with activities that may be distracting.
- Remain calm and do not get angry or aggressive when driving. Getting to the destination alive is more important than getting a destination on time.
- Join a local or national organization against distracted driving to help spread the word.
Here are a few good ones:
- People against distracted driving (www.padd.org)
Contact an Excellent Plaintiff Catastrophic-Injury Attorney
If you have been injured in a motorist accident caused by a distracted driver, contact the top-rated and experienced Michigan plaintiff catastrophic injury attorneys of Buchanan & Buchanan. We will review your claim and guide you in obtaining fair reimbursement for the harms and losses. At Buchanan and Buchanan, we are skilled at investigating motor vehicle accidents and successfully negotiating fair settlements with insurance companies, and persuasively presenting cases at trial when insurers refuse to do what is right.