Distracted driving is extremely dangerous. Indeed, according to the National Safety Council’s Transportation Safety Group, the top cause of automobile accidents is distracted driving. The organization found that distraction was a causal factor in approximately 80 percent of all car crashes.
Those accidents have tragic consequences. According to data from the U.S. Department of Transportation, there were 3,331 fatalities in distraction-related motor vehicle accidents in 2011, an increase from 3,267 in 2010. Approximately 387,000 people suffered injuries in distraction-related crashes. Australian researchers found that motorists who use portable electronic devices have a four times greater risk of being in an accident that results in an injury. The Virginia Tech Transportation Institute found that drivers who try to send text messages while driving run a 23 times greater risk of crashing.
Electronic gadgets are not the only culprit causing drivers to become distracted. Anything that takes the driver’s attention away from driving can cause an accident. This can include a wide variety of stimuli. Visual distractions may include attempting to read a map or look at a GPS device while behind the wheel, or reading billboards or street signs. Manual distractions occur whenever the driver attempts another activity in addition to driving, such as eating or drinking, shaving or putting on makeup. Cognitive distractions are things that take one’s mind off the task of driving, such as conversation with someone in the car or on the phone.
There are laws in the state of Illinois intended to reduce distracted driving. As of 2013, drivers of commercial vehicles may not use hand-held devices for making phone calls or sending text messages while driving, which is in line with federal regulations. All drivers are prohibited from sending text messages while driving, and drivers are prohibited from using their phones at all in construction zones or school zones. Drivers with graduated licenses are also prohibited from using cell phones.
In the City of Chicago, drivers using cell phones must use a hands-free device. Fines range from $100-$500. Other municipalities have passed legislation restricting the use of cell phones while driving, including Evanston, Deerfield, Winnetka and Highland Park. The village of Hinsdale has passed a general ordinance prohibiting any type of distracted driving, including reading or grooming.
Driving while distracted can cause accidents that result in serious injury. If you or someone you know has been injured in an automobile accident, contact an experienced car accident attorney right away.