It may sound like old news, but distracted driving is still a major cause of traffic accidents across Massachusetts. This should come as no surprise, since most of us engage in some form of distracted driving nearly every day. How many of us have never glanced at a text, re-set the GPS, turned to talk to a child in the back seat, or been lost in thought while driving a vehicle? Probably very few.
For this reason, it's always important to be aware of the causes of distracted driving and to hold drivers accountable when their negligence causes your accident.
Distracted Driving Takes Many Forms
Most people think of texting while driving when they consider dangerous distractions. Using a cellphone behind the wheel is a major cause of distracted-driving accidents, which is why Massachusetts enacted a hands-free driving law in February 2020.
Under this law, drivers are prohibited from touching their phones at all while on the road—even when stopped at a traffic light. The only permitted use of a cellphone while driving is through voice commands in hands-free mode.
While using a phone might be the most talked-about form of distraction, a motorist can have their attention diverted in dozens of other ways that endanger their safety and the safety of others on the road. Some common distractions include:
- Adjusting controls. Whenever you change the temperature or fan, radio dial, or cruise control setting, you're taking your eyes off the road. Doing this for even a few seconds can create a dangerous situation.
- Interacting with a GPS. Whether it's setting or changing a destination, looking at the map instead of the road ahead, or arguing with the directions you're given, in-car mapping programs can be a big distraction.
- Passengers. Teens with a lot of friends in the car, parents with noisy or needy kids in the back seat, or adults in lively or intense conversations all have their attention pulled from the task of driving. In fact, passengers are a leading cause of accidents for teen drivers.
- Eating and drinking. Consuming food and beverages requires hand-eye coordination, even while driving. Spilling hot liquids, dipping French fries into ketchup, and unwrapping a burger all require attention that should be on the road.
- Daydreaming. Cognitive distraction is as dangerous as visual or manual distraction. If you've ever arrived at work and don’t really remember the trip because you were so lost in thought, you were driving while distracted.
- Stress. When people are under stress, they tend to drive aggressively and exceed the speed limit. Focusing on problems and emotions means you're not aware of the traffic signs and cars around you.
While one of these distractions might be what caused the driver who hit you to lose focus, it won't be easy to prove. A lawyer experienced with distracted driving crashes can help.
Our Car Accident Team Knows What to Look for in a Distracted Driving Crash
If you were seriously injured in a crash that wasn’t your fault, you might be able to hold the other driver responsible for your losses if you can prove they were negligent. Under Massachusetts’ no-fault laws, you'll also have to show that you incurred at least $2,000 worth of reasonable medical expenses or suffered injuries resulting in permanent disfigurement or disability.
Distracted driving is one form of negligence. In the absence of—or in addition to—other acts such as intoxication or breaking traffic laws, your lawyer can investigate the scene, examine the police report, request cell phone records, and interview witnesses to determine if the driver was distracted at the time of the crash.
Don’t Let a Distracted Driver Get Away With It
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that nearly 3,000 people are killed, and 400,000 people are injured in crashes caused by distracted driving each year. These numbers are probably low because it’s not always easy to tell when someone was too distracted to drive safely. Even with the hands-free law in Massachusetts, distracted driving remains a real threat.
If you're struggling after a serious car accident, contact Mahaney & Pappas, LLP, to schedule a free case evaluation. If we think distracted driving may have played a part, we'll get to work proving it.