According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), texting while driving is a significant danger to all motorists and a growing concern across the country:
- Text messaging creates a crash risk an astounding 23 times more than non-texting drivers
- Sending or receiving a text takes a driver’s eyes from the road for an average of 4.6 seconds – the equivalent, at 55 mph – of driving the length of an entire football field, blind
- Drivers who use hand-held devices are 4 times more likely to get into crashes serious enough to injure themselves
If you were injured by a distracted driver, you may seek compensation in a personal injury lawsuit. Contact us to discuss your case with a West Virginia distracted driving attorney in a free consultation.
What Is Distracted Driving?
You’ve heard the phrase “distracted driving.” You may even know someone who has been in a car accident with a distracted driver. But what is it, really? Distracted driving extends much further than just texting and driving, although this is a prominent cause of distraction-related accidents. In 2018, distracted driving accidents killed 2,841 people and injured 400,000 more. Understanding the causes of these accidents can help you avoid and prevent them.
There are three kinds of distracted driving: visual, manual, and cognitive. Visual distractions take a driver’s eyes off of the road. This is dangerous for obvious reasons – if you are not looking at the road, you cannot drive safely. You must pay attention to the roadway at all times while driving, obeying road rules and reacting to changing situations. Anything that leads your eyes to wander away from the road is a visual distraction. Common examples include:
- Looking at a phone to read a text message, email, or using social media
- Watching a video
- Dialing a phone number
- Looking at the GPS or radio
- Reading a map
- Adjusting temperature controls
- Looking for items in the car or on the floor
- Taking in the view
- Rubbernecking traffic accidents
- Personal grooming (i.e. doing your makeup)
- Looking at passengers
Any of these activities put the driver at risk of causing a collision since the driver is focusing his or her eyes on something other than road. A driver engaged in these visual distractions may drift out of his or her lane, ignore a stop sign or traffic light, run off the road, fail to yield the right of way, or strike an object or pedestrian.
Manual distractions take the driver’s hands off the wheel while driving. Manual distractions are just as dangerous as visual distractions. Although the driver may see what’s going on in the road, he or she likely cannot react quickly enough to avoid a collision without his/her hands on the wheel. Manual distractions include texting, emailing, eating, drinking, using a navigation system, or adjusting the radio. A driver must keep both hands on the wheel for optimal control of the vehicle.
A cognitive distraction is anything that takes the driver’s mind off the task of driving. This may include an argument with a loved one, a discussion with a passenger, road rage, daydreaming, or being under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol. Cognitive distractions can delay a driver’s reaction time and lead him or her to do things he/she otherwise would not, such as rolling through a stop sign or speeding.
Cell Phones and Distracted Driving
Despite West Virginia’s ban on drivers using cell phones to text or make calls, hundreds of people do so every day. Most drivers believe they can multitask without compromising their driving abilities. This idea is simply not true, and it endangers the lives of the driver and everyone else on the roadway.
Text messaging is not only a visual distraction. It encompasses all three forms of distracted driving: it takes the driver’s eyes off the road, hands off the wheel, and mind off the driving task. This is why texting, scrolling through social media, taking photos, and other ways of using a cell phone behind the wheel are all so dangerous. Next time you take to the open road, say no to all three types of distracted driving, and avoid becoming a statistic.
Is Texting and Driving Illegal in West Virginia?
- In West Virginia, effective July 1, 2012, there is a ban on texting while driving
- In West Virginia, effective July 1, 2012, there is a ban for all hand-held devices while driving
- 48 states, as well as the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, Guam, and the U.S. Virgin Islands, ban text messaging for all drivers
- Drivers who use hand-held devices while driving are 4 times more likely to get into injury-causing crashes
Passengers of texting drivers are at risk, as well as drivers and passengers of cars who were struck by distracted drivers.
How to Prove Distracted Driving in West Virginia
Distracted driving accidents injure and kill thousands of people every year. In a world dominated by handheld electronic devices, distraction-related car accidents are only becoming more common. If you or someone you love was in a recent car accident, and you have reason to believe something distracted the other driver at the time of the crash, there are ways to prove fault. Work with a competent team of Charleston personal injury lawyers to improve your chances of proving driver distraction.
Obtain a Police Report
Call the police after any accident resulting in injury or property damage, no matter how minor. A police officer will gather important information about the crash and make it an official record. A police record or officer testimony can give the exact circumstances of the accident based on eyewitness testimony and details fresh in the minds of those involved. During a personal injury case, a lawyer can admit the police report to court as proof of the other driver’s distraction. The report may state the officer witnessed the other driver engaging in a distraction or the circumstances of the accident pointed to distraction.
Gather Witness Statements
If anyone witnessed the crash, gather their information and obtain testimonies from them as soon as possible after the accident. The best witnesses are non-relatives, but any passengers, other drivers, or pedestrians who saw the accident may help. When you call the police, the officer will gather statements from passengers and bystanders. If not, gather these statements yourself in writing, with the witnesses’ signatures. A car accident case that goes to court can subpoena these witnesses to testify about what they saw. If a cell phone, food, passenger, or something else distracted the driver, there may be a witness who noticed.
Access Cell Phone Records
One strong type of evidence you can use in court to prove a distracted driving accident is the other driver’s phone record. Phone records can indicate whether the driver talking on the phone, accessing a social media site, emailing, or sending a text message at the time of the accident or in the minutes leading up to the crash. When you work with a capable West Virginia distracted driving lawyer, you typically have access to private investigators and teams of people who can help gather phone records as evidence.
Collect Videos or Photographs
In some cases, there may be photo or video evidence of the crash on police dash cameras, surveillance cameras, or cell phone footage from other drivers, passengers, or bystanders. This footage may show irrefutable evidence of the other driver’s distraction, such as talking to other passengers, eating, drinking, or using a cell phone. Look for footage of the other driver prior to the crash if there is none of the crash itself.
Hire an Expert to Testify
Many personal injury cases use expert testimony to convince a judge or jury of the plaintiff’s innocence or the defendant’s guilt in a case. In the event of a distraction-related case, it may be possible to hire an expert to investigate the crash and testify that the other driver was most likely distracted at the time of the accident. For example, an expert could discuss a lack of brake marks on the road, which shows the other driver wasn’t looking and did not attempt to avoid an accident. The West Virginia distracted driving attorneys at Tiano O’Dell, PLLC can help you gather these forms of evidence and more after an accident involving a distracted driver.
Free Consultation with a West Virginia Distracted Driving Attorney
Tiano O’Dell, PLLC represents injured victims in Charleston and throughout the state of West Virginia. As plaintiff’s lawyers, we are committed to providing the best legal representation possible. We believe injured victims deserve to be compensated for the negligent conduct of other drivers.
Our texting and driving lawyers have been honored as Top 100 Trial Lawyers by the American Trial Lawyers Association and distinguished as West Virginia Super Lawyers. We earned these honors because we are committed to obtaining the best results possible for our clients. There are no fees unless we settle or win your case. To schedule your complimentary case evaluation, contact us online or call our office at (304) 720-6700.