Study Quantifies Specific Driving Distractions and Their Risks

Driving Distractions

Every San Diego car accident lawyer with any degree of experience has represented clients who were injured by distracted drivers.  We recently discussed a study that linked the increase in traffic deaths to an increase in distracted driving.  We also discussed a survey that linked car accidents in general to the use of smartphones in vehicles.  Clearly, the use of cellphones, smartphones and other handheld devices is a huge problem in the United States and around the world.  However, these devices are not solely responsible for the problem that is distracted driving.  Driving distractions have existed since almost the time that the automobile was invented.  Is it possible to know which driving distractions tend to create the most risk for drivers?  An analysis by the National Academy of Sciences attempted to do just that.  Hopefully this information will help people avoid a crash at some point in the future.

About the Driving Distractions Analysis

Those interested in reviewing the entire analysis from the National Academy of Sciences can do so here. Researchers tracked data related to more than 3,500 drivers in different parts of the United States.  They tracked these drivers over a period of three years.  The drivers were between 16 and 98 years old.  The participants drove with video cameras in their vehicles that recorded the following:

  1. The roadway in front of them
  2. The driver’s faces and driver’s-side views
  3. Right-rear view
  4. View of the driver’s interactions with the steering wheel and the center console

The drivers could also push a button that activated audio recording technology.  They would do so whenever they thought that something of interest was imminent.  Basically, the researchers were attempting to find out what caused car accidents among drivers who were sober, healthy and generally in good physical and mental condition to drive.  What they found was somewhat surprising and a bit troubling.

About the Specific Driving Distractions

Approximately 11 million car accidents occur across the United States every year.  Overall, the researchers found it possible that more than one-third of these crashes, or 4 million of them specifically, could be avoided if there were no distractions for drivers inside of vehicles.  The NAS also ranked five of the most dangerous driving distractions.  The list contained at least a couple of surprises.  Below are the five worst driving distractions, listed in order from worst to 5th worst:

  1. Dialing at least 10 digits on a cell phone – People who were dialing on a cell phone were 12.2 times more likely to be involved in a car accident than those not dialing a phone.
  2. Reaching for an object – Drivers reaching for any type of object were 9 times more likely to be involved in a car accident.
  3. Texting while driving – Texting while driving increased the risk of a car accident by a factor of 6.1.
  4. Using a touch-screen menu – Doing things like programming a GPS increased the risk of a car accident by a factor of 4.6.
  5. Adjusting the car radio – Adjusting the car radio doubled the risk of a car accident as compared to those who avoided this distraction.

The common thread between these driving distractions was that each of them took the driver’s eyes off of the road.  Looking away from the road when driving for even a second or two can instantly create serious danger for that driver and for anyone else in the area at the time.  Overall, the NAS found that drivers, by way of their mistakes, cause 94 percent of all car accidents.  Other crashes resulted from such problems as tire blowouts and mechanical problems.

California Distracted Driving Laws

What’s interesting if not troubling is that two of the five driving distractions listed above were available to drivers generations ago.  Car radios have generally been available since the 1930’s.  People have been reaching for objects for one reason or another since the automobile was introduced over 100 years ago.  Despite these strange facts, people still make these mistakes even though they have likely been taught to avoid this conduct since they learned to drive.

As far as cellphones and other technology is concerned, there are specific laws in place that outlaw this conduct.  California is known as a state that has extremely strict laws when it comes to the use of technology while driving.  According to Distraction.gov, the following laws are in place in California:

  • Using handheld phones while driving is banned on a primary basis for drivers of all ages.
  • Bus drivers are not allowed to use cellphones – whether they are handheld or hands-free – on a primary basis.
  • No driver of any age is allowed to text and drive.  This is a primary law.
  • Novice drivers, or those under the age of 18, are not allowed to use cellphones of any type.  This is a secondary law.

A primary law means that someone can be pulled over specifically for that violation.  A secondary law means that someone must be pulled over for some other offense.

How a San Diego Personal Injury Lawyer Can Help

People do not necessarily need to be breaking the distracted driving laws of California in order to be driving negligently.  If someone is not paying attention to the road and is not doing so in a way that he or she could or should have avoided, that driver could be liable for damages if engaging in that conduct causes a crash that injures someone.  Of course, proving that a driver was distracted and therefore negligent is something that requires a high level of legal skill.

If you or someone you love has been harmed by a distracted driver, you need to take action as soon as possible to make sure that your legal rights are properly protected and enforced.  You need to do so by seeking the help of San Diego personal injury lawyers who have been successfully standing up for the rights of those wrongfully harmed in crashes for more than a decade.  Contact Gomez Trial Attorneys today for a free case evaluation.

Posted in: Motor Vehicle Accidents
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