Fueled by texting, talking on the phone, and even posting to social media with mobile devices, distracted driving is on the rise. Distracted drivers are involved in more than a quarter of fatal and serious injury crashes in Minnesota. In 2015 alone, 3,477 people were killed in car wrecks involving distracted drivers, while 391,000 were injured nationally, according to the Centers for Disease Control.
If you’ve been injured by a driver you believe was distracted, it’s critical that you hire a personal injury attorney experienced in handling such claims. Drivers who were using their cell phones or otherwise engaged in distracting actions before a crash may not readily admit to their behavior during investigations by police officers. It’s important to hire a lawyer familiar with proving such conduct.
Everyone knows that drinking and driving is dangerous; however, studies suggest that cell phone use may be almost as bad, or even worse. In one study using a driving simulator, researchers found people with blood alcohol concentrations of up to 0.08 percent (the legal limit in all 50 states) operated less impaired than those talking on cell phones.
Alcohol affects drivers by reducing their visual function, delaying their braking responses and increasing the chances that they will leave their lane. For people who are sending texts while driving or using social media apps like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram while behind the wheel, nothing is focused on driving: Not their eyes, not their hands, and, most certainly, not their minds.
The average text takes five seconds to send. While driving 55mph for five seconds, you are effectively traveling 100 feet more than the length of an entire football field with your eyes closed. (Source: National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, or NHTSA)
Drunk driving has decreased, but cell phone use while driving has been on the upswing. Minnesota laws, as is true in most states, are much harsher for drunk drivers than for distracted drivers. A drunk driver can receive up to 90 days in jail, a $1,000 fine, a car insurance rate increase and license suspension. Adults who text or post to social media while driving in Minnesota currently face a $50 fine for a first offense, rising to $225 for a second offense. (Some state legislators are making efforts to increase penalties for texting while driving.)
In car accidents * resulting in death, alcohol and drugs are considered “aggravating factors.” Cell phone use is not currently an “aggravating factor” in criminal vehicular homicide. So, prosecutors must prove a driver who was distracted by texting acted with “gross negligence.” “Gross negligence” is very hard to prove. Even when a texting driver kills someone, he or she may be found guilty not of a felony count of criminal vehicular homicide, but of careless driving, a misdemeanor, and spend fewer than 30 days in jail, if any jail time is even imposed.
If you wouldn’t drink and drive, ask yourself, “Why would I risk my own safety or that of my passengers and others on the road just to text or post a status update?” Pull over if you must read or respond to a text immediately. If you can’t resist picking up your phone whenever it chimes, use Do Not Disturb options. The iPhone’s iOS 11 and iOS 12 have a Do Not Disturb While Driving function. If you turn it on, your phone senses when you are driving, keeping your screen dark. Those messaging you can receive an automatic reply that you’re driving. Similar apps are available for Android phones as well.
If you’ve been injured in a crash by a negligent driver who was distracted, call our office today. Our law firm has recovered more than $125 million on behalf of victims and we are ready to assist you.
Besides Rochester, we serve the following major southeast Minnesota cities: Red Wing, Winona, Mankato, Austin, Albert Lea, and Owatonna, and all outlying communities, as well as the cities of Minneapolis, St. Paul, Duluth, and Bloomington. We also serve the Iowa cities of Mason City, Charles City, Osage, Spencer, Garner, Forest City, and Northwood and the Wisconsin cities of La Crosse, Onalaska, Sparta, Viroqua, River Falls, Ellsworth, Whitehall, and Black River Falls.
*A note about language:
Federal agencies involved in traffic safety have banned use of the word “accident” for more than 20 years, and with good reason. However, we use the word “accident” on our website, even though we know it has implications that run contrary to our professional thinking and training, because we recognize that “accident” is the word most commonly used in online searches when people are looking for help after being injured in a crash. If you’d like more information about this topic, please see our blog, “Car Accident or Car Crash?”