If you have been involved in a car accident in Atlanta, one of the first questions that may pop into your head is whether the driver who hit you was distracted. We frequently have new clients ask us this question when they are involved in a car accident, whether they are rear-ended, T-boned, or hit by a driver who ran a red light.
Distracted driving has become a significant safety issue throughout the United States. It is estimated that each year more than 3,000 people die as a result of accidents involving distracted drivers, and more than 400,000 more are injured. Other organizations claim that these numbers are even higher, with the National Safety Council claiming that at least 28% of motor vehicle accidents are caused by texting and cell phone use.
The dangers of distracted driving are well known, but unfortunately, many people still continue to drive while distracted. Approximately one quarter of teens respond to a text message at least once every time they drive, and 20 percent of teens and 10 percent of parents admit to having multi-message text chats while driving.
So why do people continue to drive while distracted even when they know it is dangerous? Nobody knows for sure. Some people think that they know how to drive safely while they are distracted, while others may not realize the true dangers inherent in driving while distracted. The truth is that distracted driving is extremely dangerous. In fact, it is more dangerous than driving while intoxicated. Some studies have shown that driving a vehicle while texting is six times more dangerous than driving drunk. In the average time, it takes to read a text while driving, you will travel the length of a football field if you are traveling at 55 miles per hour.
Types of Distracted Driving in Atlanta
While texting is probably the most well known type of distracted driving, and perhaps the most dangerous, there are other types of distracted driving. According to the organization End Distracted Driving, there are three types of distractions while driving: manual, visual, and cognitive. Manual distractions are tasks that move your hands away from the wheel, such as reaching for something in a seat or on the floor. Visual distractions are tasks that take your eyes off the roadways, such as looking at your radio, smartphone or in dash touch screen. A cognitive distraction involves your mind losing focus on the task of driving, such as when you start to daydream or think about something you need to do at work.
Texting while driving involves all three of these types of distractions, which is what makes it so dangerous. Other types of distracted driving include talking on a cell phone, eating food and drinking, talking to passengers, applying makeup, and using a navigation system. Basically, any task that removes your hands, eyes, or mind away from the task of driving is a form of distracted driving.
What Damages Are Available in a Distracted Driving Accident in Atlanta?
Whenever you are injured, you may be entitled to damages if you can show the person who caused your injuries was negligent. The types and amounts of damages you are entitled to claim vary by case, and depend on a number of different factors, including the nature and severity of your injuries. Broadly speaking, most cases involve two types of damages: economic and noneconomic. Economic damages include damages that have an economic basis, such as medical bills, lost wages, and out of pocket expenses. Noneconomic damages include damages that are not capable of a precise economic measurement, such as pain and suffering, mental and emotional distress, permanent disfigurement, and diminished capacity to labor.
If you were injured by a distracted driver, you may be entitled to economic and noneconomic damages. You may also be entitled to punitive damages. Punitive damages are designed to punish and deter the wrongdoer and require proof that the person who caused your injuries was engaged in willful misconduct or acted so carelessly that their conduct exhibited conscious indifference to the consequences. Distracted driving is so dangerous, especially texting while driving, that you may be entitled to punitive damages if a distracted driver hits you.
Just because you are entitled to punitive damages does not mean that the distracted driver’s insurance company is responsible for paying them though. In Atlanta, insurance policies can cover punitive damages, unless there is a clear exclusion that says punitive damages are excluded. If you are making a claim for uninsured motorist coverage under your own car insurance, you should know that uninsured motorist policies do not cover punitive damages.
How Can You Prove a Distracted Driver Caused Your Accident in Atlanta
There are a number of different ways to prove that the driver who hit you was distracted. One of the easiest is if the driver admits it. Believe it or not, sometimes they do. This type of admission may appear in your accident report if the driver admits it to the police officer. There may also be other witnesses to the accident who saw the person engaged in a distracting activity, such as texting. Last, in cases involving texting, you can use the at-fault driver’s cell phone records to show he or she was texting. Without a lawsuit, however, you generally will not be able to get the cell phone records because cell phone companies do not just give their customers’ cell phone records. If a lawsuit has been filed in your case, you can generally subpoena the records though.
Common Causes of Distracted Driving
Distracted driving in Atlanta is something that most drivers are guilty of committing on a regular basis. You might not realize it, but your attention is constantly being pulled in several different directions when you’re behind the wheel. The key is to recognize what distracts you the most and to make an effort to limit distractions whenever possible.
If you’re reading this and thinking “but I’m always safe when I’m driving” you might want to think again. Here are just some of the most common ways that distracted driving cause Atlanta car accidents:
- Mealtime: Whether you’re running late in the morning or you’re starving when you get out, the tempting smell of a quick snack can be dangerous when you’re driving.
- Makeup: Not what you should use your rearview mirror for!
- Calling or texting: When you send or receive a text, it takes your eyes off the road for almost five seconds. If you’re driving 55 miles per hour, according to VTTI, you’ll travel the entire length of a football field in that time.
- Another accident: You just want to see what’s going on!
- Billboards: They’re designed to grab your attention on the road. It’s no surprise that they also cause a lot of accidents.
- Fiddling with the radio or music player: This can be just as dangerous as texting. If you need to flip stations, try pre-setting your favorites.
- Other passengers talking: Whether it’s your kids arguing in the backseat or your friends asking you to turn up the music, it’s easy to get distracted by the other passengers in your car.
- Reaching for something in your purse, wallet or the back seat: Even if you keep your eyes on the road while you blindly sift through a bag next to you, you’re still mentally distracted from what’s happening outside of your vehicle.
- Your emotions: Driving while you’re upset is actually a huge distraction, believe it or not. The consequences of distracted driving are much more serious than most people realize. In 2013, there were 3,154 car accident fatalities in the U.S. because of distracted driving or careless driving. The car accident injury statistics are even higher; around 424,000 people sustained injuries from these crashes, according to Distraction.gov. This breaks down to an average of nine fatalities and 1,153 injuries per day across the country, according to data from the U.S. CDC.
Distracted driving is more common with teenage drivers, making up 27% of all fatal accidents according to the NHTSA, but it’s by no means limited to young adults. Data from UMTRI shows that one in four teens admit to texting behind the wheel, but one in ten parents also admit to having text message conversations while driving. Though the state of Georgia has placed a ban on all cell phone use for drivers under the age of 18, it’s important for drivers of all ages to limit when and how they use their phones in the car.
Contact an Atlanta Distracted Driving Lawyer Today
If you have been injured in a distracted driving accident in Atlanta, you should talk with an Atlanta personal injury attorney as soon as possible. The attorneys at The Champion Firm, P.C., have experience representing injured victims of distracted drivers and can fight to get you all of the compensation you are entitled to receive. Contact us today for a free consultation about your car accident case.