Would you close your eyes and take your hands off the wheel while driving?
Sounds ridiculous, doesn’t it? Yet drivers spend 3.5 minutes on the phone while driving for every hour they’re behind the wheel.
That insane statistic explains why cell phone accidents are still on the rise and are the cause of a disproportionate number of accidents.
If you’re unlucky enough to be on the wrong end of a texting accident, you should know they have some differences from other accidents. Knowing your rights could save you a lot of heartache and loss.
Below, we’ll be looking at what makes texting accidents different.
Just the Facts
To start, let’s go over the facts around texting while driving. We’ll take a look at its prevalence along with the scientific background that makes it so terrible.
However you slice it, texting while driving is still a major risk to road safety. That’s despite news coverage, public awareness campaigns, and statistics backing up how devastating it can be.
So just how widespread is it?
A staggering 64% of road accidents in the US involve a cell phone. When you consider the potential number of causes for road accidents, from human error, to icy weather, to driver fatigue, the share attributed to cell phone incidents is sobering.
In Pennsylvania, citations for driving while distracted by cell phone have risen year on year since 2012. That’s despite the legislation in place to lower the number of cell phone accidents.
Over 70% of those involved were men.
A texting accident is twice as likely to occur than a drunk-driving incident. Yet drunk driving is rightly regarded as a major crime, while the average driver thinks texting while driving is almost inevitable.
Drivers under age 20 are the most likely culprits in distracted driving offenses.
The silver lining here is that cell phone use enjoys a high rate of conviction per tickets issued.
Psychology experts often weigh in on the mental factors behind a texting accident.
There’s evidence suggesting a dopamine response to checking texts. Essentially, scientists say that using a phone while driving is psychologically similar to gambling on a slot machine.
Your brain registers a text message as a reward.
Psychologically, texting while driving falls under the “optimism bias” – the belief that you’re less likely to experience a negative event than other people. The optimism bias leads most drivers to believe they’re above average at driving, which is obviously impossible.
These two facts dovetail into a deadly combination. Psychologists proved the effects of the “never me” line of thinking a long time ago.
A texting accident is the perfect example of it in practice.
Public awareness campaigns have helped reduce drink driving accidents. But unlike drink driving, texting while driving doesn’t require as much conscious decision making.
Potential drunk drivers have a lot of facts to consider in advance. Texters only need to decide whether to pick up their phone — an act most of us do without even thinking.
The human brain also didn’t evolve to travel at highway speeds. Drivers fail to appreciate that a three-second glance at a phone screen at 55 miles per hour means their car travels the length of a football field.
In that time, it basically doesn’t have a driver.
Ironically, 94% of drivers support bans on texting while driving. Yet some of these people will end up responsible for a texting accident at some point in their lives.
The risk of a texting accident has grown so strong that governments are trying their best to curb the problem.
Laws covering texting while driving vary from country to country and state to state. Let’s take a look first at how other countries handle it.
Drivers in Australia can only use a cell phone while parked. The only exceptions allowed are for hands-free devices and phones mounted so the driver’s eyes never leave the road. Some drivers, such as emergency services, are exempt from these laws.
Phone use is also covered by wider distracted driving laws.
Only the territories of Nunavut and Yukon lack bans on texting while driving. All other territories have policies in place to prohibit it.
The UK has similar zero-use policies. Any hand-held device is illegal for the driver or even someone supervising a learner driver. The only exception is for emergency calls.
Laws in the USA vary from state to state.
The majority of states outlaw texting while driving. The states of Texas, Arizona, Montana, and Missouri are exceptions. In Texas, driving while texting is illegal for bus drivers in control of a school bus when transporting children under 17.
Missouri’s ban only concerns commercial drivers and new drivers.
In 2009, President Obama moved to block use of texting in government vehicles with an executive order. Also at the federal level, the US Department of Transport banned texting while driving for truckers and bus drivers in 2010.
Prevention and Enforcement
Even with these bans in place, authorities find it difficult to curb cell phone use while driving.
Experts continue to push for increased fines and bans for texting drivers.
There’s even been talk of punishing people who text drivers knowing they’ll reply. At the same time, attempts have been made to sue companies like Apple for not doing enough to prevent it.
Apple has responded to concerns by introducing a Do Not Disturb While Driving feature. The feature uses the Doppler effect to sense when the user is driving and blocks access to many features of the phone.
Cell phone use while driving remains a relatively new problem, as far as the law goes.
Lawmakers are still working to close semantic gaps and make use of statistical data. For now, some states don’t even place restrictions on texting and driving. Others don’t clearly lock down whether checking emails, skipping a song, or using a navigation app count as a similar distraction.
As incidents continue to increase, we can expect to see legislation become more specific and targeted toward common causes and loopholes.
What’s the Difference?
We’ve said that a texting accident isn’t like other accidents. So, what does that mean?
Let’s cover a few factors that make texting accidents stand out.
It can be difficult to establish fault in the event of an accident. Photographic evidence and testimony can be inconclusive or misleading. In many cases, fault can be traced back to non-negligent human error.
In texting accidents, fault clearly lies with the texter. It’s a legal expectation that drivers should not drive while distracted, even in states where texting while driving isn’t illegal. But it isn’t always so easy to prove a texting accident.
A texting accident is an example of negligence. By choosing to text, the driver has abandoned the legal expectations required of them.
Even more dramatically, you could find yourself at fault even if you’re the victim of an accident! If you’re texting at the time of an accident, your negligence could be considered a contributing factor.
That goes even if the other car also broke laws.
Most drivers don’t consider that they might commit homicide when they get behind the wheel.
But a texting accident differs from accidents without negligence. Instead of mutual loss followed by compensation claims, texting can lead to homicide charges.
Causing death by distracted driving is an example of vehicular homicide and can carry a multi-year prison sentence. A severe accident could even result in multiple homicides.
In some countries, drivers face a life sentence for causing death due to using a cell phone while driving.
What Should You Do?
It can be hard to keep a clear mind after an accident. We’ve put together some steps for you to follow below.
In the Moment
Once you’ve ensured everyone is safe and all engines are switched off, it’s time to take a deep breath and think.
The most important thing you can do at the scene is to take photos.
Photographic evidence of the scene can be vital when it’s time to determine who’s at fault. Try to get a variety of shots.
Photos of car damage can help determine who was at fault and the speeds involved. Take photos of any skid marks or notable road conditions.
Photos make good evidence because they’re indisputable. Witness testimony is notoriously unreliable. Pictures will also prove what damage occurred as a direct result of the accident.
Focus on getting multiple, clear shots from every angle. Thinking about this task will also help calm your mind.
Record important details like the contact numbers of the parties involved. Get insurance details from the other drivers, along with the license plates.
When the police arrive, ask the names of the officers and record your police report number.
In the Aftermath
The first thing you should do is visit a hospital if you have any injuries. A doctor’s testimony about your injuries can make a huge difference in court. They’ll indicate how much trauma you’ve suffered, which might decide the compensation you’re entitled to.
Be sure to contact your insurance provider at the first opportunity.
They’ll need to go through their own processes to start a claim. Your insurer will need some of the information you collected following the accident.
Establishing fault will also be of interest to your insurer. Provide them with the evidence they ask for to increase your chances of a payout from the negligent driver’s insurance.
Hire an Attorney
In the case of a texting accident, fault is clearly an issue. When there’s fault, you should hire an attorney.
The earlier you get an attorney, the easier you’ll find it to meet the criteria to sue for damages.
An attorney can give you a clearer picture of the damages you’ve suffered, legally-speaking. They’ll also let you know your rights for your state.
Proving liability is a complex process in a texting accident. An attorney will ensure every legal step has been taken to establish the texter as being at fault.
Without an attorney, you could miss key steps that could hurt your case.
Depending on your state, you may have a limited time to sue. Contacting an attorney early ensures you won’t miss this window.
Your attorney will work with you to establish evidence for your case. You’re primarily looking to establish that texting was the cause of your accident.
Ensure you’ve told the police everything you know. A police report could be a key piece of evidence in your case. Police will sometimes include an assessment of the fault.
If there were witnesses to your accident, obtaining their contact details could help your case.
It’s also possible for police to obtain usage records from the cell network. Timestamps or browsing history could indicate that the phone was in use.
Going to Court
It’ll be on your attorney to prove beyond reasonable doubt that the offending driver was using their phone.
The leniency of courts regarding a texting accident while driving will vary by state. Some courts will allow certain functions of phone use, like navigation apps.
Others will consider all phone use to be a case of distracted driving.
A Texting Accident Could Change Your Life
Sadly, those who text while driving don’t think about the consequences. If they did, they’d stop immediately. But you can make your life easier after a texting accident by knowing your rights and taking the correct steps.
Looking for more legal pointers?
Why not contact us to find out what we can do for you?