car accident attorneyDistracted driving has become a hot topic over the years due to the dangers and injuries it causes. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, distracted drivers are becoming the leading cause of many car accidents. As a result, April has been designated as the National Distracted Driving Awareness Month.

In honor of Distracted Driving Awareness Month, we are helping do our part to bring attention and awareness to the dangers of distracted driving and ways to avoid being seriously injured or injuring others in a motor vehicle crash. Here are three important tips to help drivers avoid distractions. Following these tips will help keep our roadways and highways in Massachusetts and across the nation safer for everyone.

1.  Put Your Phone Down

In the busy world we live in, a lot of us are guilty of using our phones for one thing or another while behind the wheel. Some drivers will talk or text while driving while others will use their cell phones for other reasons, such as to check their email or even look something up on the web. Some may think that it is innocent and can be done safely, however, the statistics of cell phone use while driving provide otherwise.

Everyone knows about how dangerous it is to drink and drive. Most (I’d like to think) follow these warnings and use a taxi, Uber or other transportation services to avoid getting behind the wheel after drinking. But did you know that studies have found texting and driving to be almost six times more likely to cause an accident than drinking and driving? The National Safety Council’s shocking report found that nearly 1.6 million car crashes happen every year due to cell phone use while driving. These accidents have accounted for almost 400,000 injuries.

Using your cell phone takes your focus off the road and puts you, your passenger and other drivers at risk of serious injuries. Most cars nowadays come equipped with hands free technology. A lot of drivers think using the hands free devices to be safe. Sure, it is safer than holding your cell phone in your hand and looking down at it to text or find that phone number. However, research has identified how hands-free cell phone impairs our focus, attention and reaction-time, which can be just as dangerous as using your cell phone in the traditional way. So, do yourself and others on the road a favor, put down your phone when you are driving. That text or call can wait.

2.  Don’t Eat or Drink While Driving

Much like phone use, eating and drinking is one of the most common forms of distractions for drivers. Despite the dangers it creates, drivers have made eating and drinking behind the wheel a habit. I know plenty of people who typically have their breakfast and coffee while driving to work in the morning. In the busy and demanding world we live in, it has become a morning routine for many. You may never have thought about it but eating and/or drinking while driving a car is a serious safety hazard to all on the roads, including you and your passengers.

The reason eating and drinking when driving is so dangerous is because it combines the three common forms of distractions that have been found to impair a driver’s ability to safely drive. The three forms of distractions are: Visual, Manual and Cognitive. When a driver is eating a breakfast sandwich and having a coffee while driving on the highway, the drivers is visually distracted when he or she looks down to grab that sandwich or coffee, manually distracted when they have to take their hands off the wheel to open the breakfast sandwich and cognitively distracted when they take their focus off the road and traffic. The added task of looking for a napkin to wipe your face and hands only adds to the dangerous distractions. These distractions put the driver and others on the roadways in danger of being seriously injured in a crash.

To avoid these types of distractions, try getting up 20 minutes earlier in the morning to have your breakfast at home before hitting the road. If you are pressed for time and go to a drive through and grab a quick breakfast, you should either wait until you get to work to eat it or eat it before you get back on the road or highway.

3.  Tune the Radio or Input GPS Before You Travel

When a driver is using their navigation or trying to find the right radio station while behind the wheel, it distracts the driver from the safe operation of the vehicle. This is no different than using a cell phone or eating while driving. The same distractions are created. Drivers will need to take their eyes and focus off the road and other vehicles as well as their hands off the wheel to look down and use their GPS or radio.

All it takes is a split second to drift into another travel lane or neglect to see a traffic light or sign to cause an accident or serious injuries to yourself and others. We recently met with a young woman who was involved in a rear-end collision in Natick, MA. She suffered a serious neck injury in the crash. When we obtained the police report, the police officer noted that the other driver told the police officer that he was inputting an address into his GPS and didn’t see the traffic stopped. This is just one of many examples of how an accident and injuries can happen when your focus is taken off the road and other vehicles.

To do your part to keep the roads and highways safe, take an extra minute before putting your car in drive to input your information into your GPS or find that radio station you want to listen to when driving. Failing to do so could result in serious injuries.

What Should You Do if You Are Injured by a Distracted Driver

If you are injured in a car accident in Massachusetts that was caused by a distracted driver, you should speak with an experienced personal injury lawyer. A distracted driver is a negligent driver. Thus, if the accident was caused by a distracted driver, you have the legal right to seek financial compensation for your injuries and losses.

Serious injuries often result in very expensive medical bills and significant time out of work. We have seen countless times how the combination of incurring medical bills and losing wages from missing work can wreak financial havoc on one’s lifestyle and family. An experienced injury attorney will evaluate your accident case, advise you on what your legal rights are and what compensation you may be entitled to and protect your rights to that compensation.

Seeking advice from an experienced accident attorney and educating yourself on personal injury claims from car accidents will put you in the best position to obtain the financial compensation you deserve after being seriously injured in a crash caused by a distracted driver.

Charles S. Pappas
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Massachusetts injury lawyer & workers' compensation attorney serving accident victims in Webster & Framingham.
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