We are all aware of the dangers of distracted driving, especially texting-while-driving or using cell phones on the roadway. But, if you ask a Rogers car accident lawyer, using hands-free devices while driving poses a similar risk. In fact, the danger may be underestimated because most people assume hands-free is safer. Unfortunately, statistics show that is not necessarily the case.
What is “distracted driving?”
The legal definition of “distracted driving” is “[a]ny activity a person engages in that has the potential to distract him or her from the primary task of driving.” There are actually three categories of activities that result in distracted driving: visual, manual and cognitive. According to statistics published by the federal government, 3,154 people were killed, and more than 400,000 injured, in 2013 in car accidents involving distracted drivers. Twenty-year-olds have the largest proportion of drivers who are reportedly distracted, 10% of whom are involved in fatal crashes with a distracted driver.
The use of hands-free devices while driving
There are many different types of hands-free devices available to drivers these days. Cell phone headsets that are either wired or wireless, as well as Bluetooth devices and audio integrated into the vehicle, are some common options.
Theoretically, a hands-free device would allow a driver to keep their hands on the wheel and eyes on the road while driving. The expectation is that these methods would reduce the amount of distraction while driving. What we fail to consider is the fact that simply talking on the phone, whether hands-free or not, still distracts drivers on a cognitive level from the task, which should be driving safely.
Why the risk of using hands-free devices is often overlooked
Basically, hands-free devices are viewed as the solution to distracted driving caused by handheld mobile devices. As such, the public believes that using such devices will dramatically reduce the risk of car accidents. As your Rogers car accident lawyer knows, most states have only imposed restrictions on using handheld mobile devices, particularly when texting and driving. However, most drivers do not realize the actual risk caused by using hands-free devices while driving, which statistically is as serious as driving while intoxicated and not much safer than using a handheld mobile device while driving.
Why distracted driving is such a serious concern
The most important thing to remember is that operating a motor vehicle requires the driver’s complete attention. Any type of distraction can dramatically increase the risk of negligence and lead to an accident. Distractions are not only manual, such as taking your hands off the wheel to do something but also include visual distractions, and cognitive distractions. Visual distractions take your eyes off the road which is obviously dangerous. But cognitive distractions take your mind off of driving. That includes talking to passengers and talking on the phone.
State law restrictions on cell phone use while driving
The laws regarding distracted driving, and in particular cell phone use, depend on what state you are driving in. Some laws only restrict texting and driving and others prohibit using any handheld devices, such as cell phones. Regardless, the fact that there are laws regulating the use of mobile devices while driving signifies the importance of eliminating distracted driving.
Texting and driving is illegal for all drivers in 47 states and the District of Columbia. Missouri is one of only three states that do not have a ban on texting and driving for all drivers. Talking on a hand-held cell phone while driving is banned to some degree in 15 states and the District of Columbia, including Arkansas, which has a partial ban. Discuss your legal obligations as a driver with your Rogers car accident lawyer. Cell phone use by novice or teen drivers is banned in 38 states.
Injured by a distracted driver?
If you have been injured in an accident caused by a distracted driver, you may be able to recover damages for those injuries. If you can prove that the driver was negligent or distracted at the time the accident occurred, you will likely have a good case. If you noticed that the driver was eating or engaging in any other distracted driving behavior, such as texting, talking on the phone, applying makeup, etc., those particular details are extremely important and should be disclosed to your personal injury attorney.
If you have questions regarding car accidents or any other personal injury matters in Arkansas or Missouri, please contact the Cottrell Law Office for a free consultation. You can contact us either online or by calling us toll-free at (888) 433-4861.
He is licensed to practice law in the United States District Court for the District of Kansas, eastern Arkansas, western Arkansas, and western Missouri. He was Deputy Prosecuting Attorney in Crawford County, Kansas from 1987-1989.
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