Distracted Driving Accidents
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) defines distracted driving as any activity that diverts attention from driving. Among these potentially dangerous activities are talking or texting on a mobile phone, eating and drinking, talking to people in the vehicle, and adjusting the stereo, entertainment or navigation system.
Distracted driving is lethal. NHTSA data shows that distracted driving took the lives of 3,477 people (drivers and other victims) in 2015 alone. The NHTSA reveals that 80% of accidents and 16% of highway deaths are the result of distracted drivers.
It’s also alarming to learn that 1.6 million, or one fourth of all crashes annually in the U.S., are due to drivers talking on a mobile phone. Another 1 million, or 18% of traffic accidents, are due to text messaging while driving. These numbers mean that distracted driving when using a mobile phone causes one accident every 24 seconds.
Studies by NHTSA and other road safety groups continue to affirm that texting while driving is a “most alarming distraction” that can lead to deadly consequences. They’ve shown that sending or reading a text takes a driver’s eyes off the road for about five seconds.
At a driving speed of 55 miles per hour, that distraction is equal to driving the length of a football field with your eyes closed.
NHTSA stands firm in its conviction that a driver can’t operate safely unless the task of driving has their full attention. Any non-driving activity – especially talking on a mobile phone or texting – is a distraction that increases a driver’s risk of crashing.
Texting while driving is the most widely reported form of distracted driving. It creates a crash risk 23 times higher than driving while not distracted. Despite the flood of information warning against distracted driving, more than 37% of U.S. drivers admit to sending or receiving text messages while driving. Another 18% admit doing so regularly.
At Kassel McVey our accident lawyers are committed to helping distracted driving accident injury victims get the full compensation they deserve. If you or a loved one has been seriously injured in a car accident caused by a distracted driver, contact Kassel McVey for a free and confidential case evaluation.
Teenagers Are at High Risk
The NHTSA has determined that distracted driving accounts for 25% of all crashes involving teenage drivers. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) agrees , reporting that drivers under the age of 20 are at the highest risk of distracted driving-related crashes.
That teenagers are inordinately fond of their mobile phones is no secret. In many cases, this fondness carries on when teenagers take to the wheel.
Nearly half of all American high school students age 16 and over texted or emailed while driving, reported a 2011 CDC study. The study also revealed that teenagers who text while driving were almost twice as likely to get in a car with a driver who has been drinking. These teens are also five times as likely to drink and drive under the influence.
The results of these behaviors are tragic. In 2013, almost one million teenage drivers between the ages of 16 and 19 were involved in motor vehicle crashes. These accidents resulted in 2,865 deaths and 383,000 injuries nationwide.
Mobile phone use (talking, texting or searching for information) was implicated as a cause for 12% of teen accidents. In more than half of the rear-end crashes involving mobile phone use, the distracted teen driver had no idea they were about to be hit.
In 2014, South Carolina passed a law making texting while driving a violation of the South Carolina Code of Laws. There is, however, no law prohibiting talking on a mobile phone while driving.
Under the law, texting while driving is considered a primary offense. This means police officers can pull over drivers seen texting while driving without any other pretext for the stop. Penalties range from $25 to $50, depending if it’s a driver’s first offense.
The law also states that the plaintiff has the burden of proving the distracted driver was “negligent” at the time of the accident in order to recover damages. Proving negligence, however, is a tough job. It means taking into account all the circumstances leading up to the accident, and convincing the court the distracted driver didn’t behave in a way a rational driver would have behaved.
Proving the other driver was distracted helps strengthen the plaintiff’s case against the distracted driver. But there’s a caveat. Just because a driver was doing something else while driving doesn’t necessarily mean they were negligent. The South Carolina statute that prohibits texting while driving states texting while driving isn’t proof of negligence by itself (per se negligence).
On the other hand, texting and driving is generally considered negligence, if not gross negligence. This means evidence of mobile phone use is not in itself enough to shift the burden of proof.
There are ways a plaintiff can prove that another driver was distracted at the time of the accident. Proof includes mobile phone data proving the driver was texting or using the phone, security camera footage, witnesses (including passengers) that saw the driver being distracted before or during the crash, and evidence in the car that the driver was eating or drinking.
A plaintiff may be able to recover monetary damages for some of the consequences of the accident. But a plaintiff must prove the other driver was distracted (and therefore negligent). The accuser must also prove the distraction caused the accident that led to the plaintiff’s injuries.
Damages available to a plaintiff include reimbursement of medical bills, reimbursement of lost wages, compensation for pain and suffering, awarding of punitive damages, and property damages.
A plaintiff then has to contend with South Carolina’s doctrine of “comparative negligence.” This means that if the plaintiff is found to be partially responsible for the accident, their recovery will be reduced in the amount that they were deemed responsible.
Contact Kassel McVey
Proving negligence in a distracted driving case is a complex undertaking best accomplished with the assistance of the experienced personal injury lawyers at Kassel McVey.
We’re well-experienced in dealing with vehicle accident related lawsuits, so, if you or a loved one have suffered a serious injury as a result of a distracted driving incident don’t hesitate to contact us.
We’ll help you determine if the other party was at fault, how serious the sustained injuries are, and what you should rightfully receive for your medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering and other damages.
We put our 30+ years of combined legal experience to work for you and we fight to ensure that the insurance companies pay you what you truly deserve. Call us today at (803) 256-4242 and put our experience to work for you.
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Columbia, South Carolina 29202
Fax: (803) 256-1952
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