What Is Distracted Driving?
A driver is distracted whenever his or her eyes leave the road. Over 1 million accidents occur each year in America because of distracted driving, costing around forty billion dollars in damage.
Every driver owes a duty of care to other drivers, cyclists, and pedestrians on the roadway. The specific duty of care for drivers is to obey all traffic laws and to use the amount of attention that a reasonable person would use under similar road, traffic, and weather conditions.
If you fail to exercise this duty of care, and doing so proximately causes injuries to others, you could be responsible for compensating the victims.
Using a Cell Phone While Driving Exposes You to Liability
One of the main distractions for drivers are their cell phones. Many experts claim that using a phone—and especially texting—while driving is as dangerous as driving drunk.
In response to a rising number of accidents caused by cell phone use, the Illinois legislature passed laws prohibiting the use of cell phones at all times while driving unless the driver has a hands free device. But even them it’s illegal to take calls with a hands free device in school and construction zones.
If you use your phone or text while driving, you could receive a fine if the police catch you. If you cause an accident, the victims could hold you liable for their damages.
Even worse, the plaintiffs could ask for punitive damages in addition to compensation. In egregious cases of negligence, such as texting behind the wheel, courts will not hesitate to punish the responsible party with punitive damages, in the hopes of dissuading similar conduct in the future.
Avoid Any Source of Distraction While Driving
If you get a call or a text while you are behind the wheel, and you can’t wait to answer, you should pull over to a safe area before handling your phone. Some suggest turning your phone off before getting in the car to avoid the temptation of glancing at text messages. Taking your eyes of the road for even a moment could prove fatal.
Other distractions aren’t explicitly illegal like cell phone use, but you should nonetheless avoid them because they greatly increase your risk of causing an accident. Should an accident occur because you were distracted, you could be liable even if you weren’t doing anything illegal.
While driving, you should avoid:
- Adjusting the radio, seat positions, and air conditioning
- Doing any personal grooming
- Attending to children
- Reading—yes, some drivers think it’s ok to read on the road
- Eating or drinking
If you have a passenger with you, have him or her take care of these distractions for you. If you’re alone, pull over before attending to anything besides driving. It may waste time, but your life and those of others are well worth it!