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Drowsy and Distracted Driving

Distracted driving is a serious problem that injures more than 1,000 people and kills 9 every day. In recent years, the number of accidents as well as accident related injuries and death attributed to distracted driving have steadily increased. A 2015 report on statistical findings regarding distracted driving, published by the U.S. Department of Transportation National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), found that the largest proportion of drivers who were involved in fatal crashes and were distracted fell into the 15 year old to 19 year old age range. However, distracted driving can and does affect drivers of any age. Anyone who takes their attention off of the road, even for a second, increases their likelihood of being involved in a fatal crash or one with serious injuries.

What is Distracted Driving?

Most people think of texting while driving when they think of distracted driving, but that is only partly true. Anything that takes your mind off your driving, your eyes off the road, or your hands off the wheel is distracted driving. This includes:

  • Texting
  • Emailing on a phone
  • Dialing a phone number on a phone
  • Talking on a phone
  • Operating a camera or shooting video
  • Drinking or eating
  • Daydreaming
  • “Dancing” behind the wheel
  • Adjusting the stereo
  • Talking to passengers in the car
  • Watching children in the backseat to make sure they behave
  • Adjusting the GPS

To put it into perspective, if a car is moving at 55 mph it will travel the length of a football field in 5 seconds – the average time it takes to take your eyes off the road and type a text.

A 2006 study compared cell phone drivers and drunk drivers. The cell phone drivers showed a delayed braking reaction while drunk drivers were more aggressive behind the wheel. The researchers concluded that cell phone driving is just as dangerous as, if not more so, than drunk driving.

Distracted Driving Statistics

Since 2009, there has been a steady increase in the percentage of drivers visibly manipulating their handheld devices. This includes texting and driving, which has proved to be fatal in many circumstances. Specifically, the percentage rose from 0.6% in 20089 to 2.2% in 2015.

The National Occupant Protection Use Survey reported that handheld cell phone use continued to be highest among 16-24 year old drivers. Many of these drivers can be seen texting, talking on their phone, and even Snapchatting while driving.

According to Texting and Driving Safety, nearly 25% of all car accidents are caused by texting and driving. Also, texting makes a crash up to 23 times more likely! Dialing a number, talking or listening on the phone, and reaching for the phone also increases the likelihood of a crash.

The Law Says…

Currently, there is no national ban on cell phone usage while driving. Some states, however, have passed laws that ban using phones of any capacity while driving. In 2015, Texas passed a law that prohibits novice drivers from using their cell phones. Also, a new City of Austin ordinance prohibits the use of all electronic handheld devices while operating a vehicle or bicycle.

In the city, a person can be fined up to $500 for violating this ordinance. The government and department of transportation suggests using a hands-free system such as Bluetooth or headphones while operating a vehicle. However, if you need to report a crime or accident, calling 9-1-1 or 3-1-1 is permitted. They do suggest to pull over and come to a complete stop before using or operating any mobile or handheld device, even in an emergency situation.

The Problem with Drowsy Driving

Sleep deprivation is a problem in our country and on our roads. Drowsy drivers have a significantly increased risk of getting into an accident. Unfortunately, it is difficult to get an accurate number on how many accidents, injuries or deaths should be attributed to drowsy driving because there is not standard training for law enforcement to identify a drowsy driving related crash. Also, there are no tests a driver can take to determine their level of sleepiness, like there is for intoxication. These factors make reporting inconsistent and somewhat unreliable. However, experts do believe that the numbers of accidents involving a drowsy driver are much greater than are reported.

Do You Know the Signs of a Drowsy or Distracted Driver?

As a driver, it is important to know when you may be driving distracted or drowsy. As a passenger in a vehicle, you also need to know the signs that you are riding with a distracted driver because it could put your life or welfare in jeopardy. It is equally important to be able to identify a distracted driver on the road so that you can avoid them, thus avoid a potential accident.

As a passenger, it is fairly easy to spot a distracted driver. You can see if they are talking on their phone, texting, or doing something else that takes their attention off of their driving. You can also offer to help them with the task so that they aren’t distracted.

A distracted driver in another car, however, is another story. As a driver, you have a responsibility to not only pay close attention to your own driving, but also be aware of the other vehicles on the road. If you encounter what you suspect to be a distracted driver, the best you can do is try to avoid them. Stay as far away from them as possible. Some signs of a distracted driver in another vehicle include:

  • Swerving within their lane or crossing into other lanes
  • Riding very close to (hugging) either the center line or far right line
  • Driving very slowly
  • Stopping abruptly behind cars that are already stopped
  • Running off the road
  • Swerving or over correcting when they cross a line
  • At a traffic light, they are slow to move when the rest of the traffic does

What Can You Do?

The best way to prevent an accident when driving is to not text and drive or do any other form of distracted driving. Even if you’re looking at your phone for 5 seconds, the consequences can be fatal to you or another driver. Here are some tips to keep you safe while on the road:

  • Keep your phone out of reach
  • Finish all personal grooming (e.g. fixing your hair, applying makeup) before getting in the car or driving
  • Do all adjustments before driving (e.g. adjusting your mirrors, adjusting your seat, finding a radio station, connecting your mobile device to Bluetooth)
  • If you’re driving with others, assign a designated driver…for texting. Have someone hold onto your phone and respond to texts, calls, or change the music for you.
  • Put your phone on Do Not Disturb or Airplane Mode. If you think you’ll be distracted by your screen lighting up from a notification, avoid the temptation completely and keep your phone on a mode when you will not be notified of a text or call.
  • Pull over and stop completely if you cannot wait to answer your phone.

Although Texas does not have a statewide ban on cell phone usage while driving, there is a clear consensus that it is best to not talk on or use your phone while driving. 

If you have been in an accident with a drowsy or distracted driver and sustained injuries, you need good legal counsel by a law firm that knows the law and understands the court system. The attorneys at The Cagle Law Firm have the education and experience to represent you and help you get the compensation that you deserve. Call today at 888-353-3619 or via our email contact form on our website. Let us handle your case so you can concentrate on recovering.

Related Resources

The Cagle Law Firm, P.C., provides individuals injured through someone else’s negligence personally tailored legal services. Learn about your legal rights and resources below. Call (888) 353-3619 for a free consultation.