According to the official United States Government Website for Distracted Driving, “any activity that could divert a person’s attention away from the primary task of driving” is considered to be a form of distracted driving. These distractions range from texting to adjusting a radio to eating. However, the complexity behind text messaging creates a complex diversion of attention off of the road. The driver’s focus is transferred to a cellular device requiring visual, manual, and cognitive attention.1 The demanding nature of text messaging makes it one of the most distressing driving distractions.
Studies Show that Texting While Driving Creates Increased Dangers and Distractions
It is not a surprising fact that drivers are distracted by text messaging when considering the high propensity for wireless connection throughout the United States. According to research conducted by the CTIA Wireless Association, as of last December there are over 350 million active wireless devices in the United States alone.2 These devices are responsible for the average 170 billion text messages sent each month.3 This means that almost 2 trillion text messages are sent each year and reports indicate a large portion of the texts are sent from behind the wheel.4 According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), on any given day 660,000 drivers are using a cell phone or other electronic devices while behind the wheel.5 The Virginia Tech Transportation Institute conducted a study showing that text messaging creates a crash risk that is 23 times worse than driving without the cellular distraction.6 The same study revealed that texting while driving typically distracts a driver for five seconds, a car driving 60 m.p.h. will travel approximately one hundred yards during those five seconds which means a driver is distracted, but driving for a distance almost equivalent to the length of a football field.7 The Federal Communications Commission, which compiled the studies conducted by Virginia Tech and the NHTSA, reports that statistical findings show there is a steady increase in the prevalence of cellular devices and more teenage drivers report being a passenger or driver who was endangered by cell phone use. This indicates that as the incidents of collisions caused by texting while driving rises so will the number of personal injury and auto accident claims that require proving that a driver was texting behind the wheel.
Finding Liability for Damages Caused by Texting and Driving
When a driver engages in an inherently dangerous or distractive activity, such as texting while driving, he or she is breaching the legal duty of care owed to the state and fellow drivers to safely obey traffic laws. The breach of a legal duty to ensure the safety of fellow drivers is known as negligence. If the result of negligently texting while driving is an auto accident then the texting driver is responsible for compensating the other driver or victim. The difficult part comes in proving that the supposedly negligent behavior of texting actually occurred prior to and leading up to the accident in order to prove that the act of texting was the proximate or direct cause of the car accident.
The first step is to consider the laws of the state where the accident occurred to determine if a texting violation would by itself count as evidence of liability. For instance, in Missouri there is no regulation on cell phone use while driving unless you are a commercial or novice driver. Drivers under the age of 21 are prohibited from texting while driving in Missouri.8 However, in Illinois all drivers are banned from the use of hand-held devices since texting laws prevent the composing, sending, or reading of an electronic message while operating a vehicle.9 Besides state laws, typical evidence of liability include police reports indicating any reasons there was to believe a driver’s cell phone use contributed to the accident, photographs taken at the scene, eye witnesses, and cell phone records. Each of these elements can be used to prove that a driver was texting while behind the wheel and negligently caused a car accident.
Contact an Experienced St. Louis Car Accident Lawyer for a Free Consultation
If you have been injured by a driver who was texting behind the wheel, it is important to seek the legal advice of a car accident attorney who can help to seek compensation for the negligence of texting while driving. An experienced auto accident attorney can determine what claims should be filed and protect your rights and interests as a victim of a car accident. To contact an auto accident attorney for a free consultation please feel free to call the The Bruning Law Firm trial attorneys at 314-735-8100.