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Distracted driving is an epidemic on our roads

A driver holding a cellphone

Distracted driving is a form of driver negligence that is running rampant across the nation, with texting and driving the most widespread problem among drivers. While there are many other forms of distraction that can steal your attention away from the road – from talking (on the phone or to passengers), setting a GPS, adjusting music, eating, drinking, putting on makeup, or fixing your hair – reading or sending a text is one of the most dangerous things you can do when you’re driving because it combines visual, manual, and cognitive distraction.

Distracted driving: The facts

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has labeled April “Distracted Driving Awareness Month,” which might explain why you may have noticed a more visible police presence as traffic officers enforced texting laws and reminded motorists how dangerous distracted driving can be.

According to the NHTSA, there were 3,142 deaths caused by distracted driving in 2019, which represents a 10% increase compared to 2018.

Of all the fatal crashes that took place in 2019, 9% involved a distracted driver. And from 2012-2019, more than 26,000 people died in crashes involving distracted drivers.

While we’re all at risk of getting into a car accident due to distracted driving, the numbers say drivers ages 16-24 have slightly higher rates of being distracted by electronic devices than older drivers.

Even just one death from an accident caused by someone who was texting while driving is too many, which explains why 48 states, including Indiana, have made it illegal to text and drive.

Indiana’s Hands-Free Driving Law

The Hoosier State takes distracted driving seriously and since 2011 has had a law in place that bans texting while driving. In July 2020, the state passed a new hands-free law that prohibits drivers from holding any mobile device, including smartphones and tablets.

According to the Indiana Department of Transportation: “The texting while driving law presented enforcement challenges for police officers and did not achieve a reduction in crashes caused by distracted driving. The new law is more comprehensive, prohibiting drivers from having a mobile device in hand while their vehicles are moving.”

Unless a motorist needs to call 911 for an emergency, a driver must use a speakerphone, Bluetooth technology, earpiece, headphone, or another device that allows them to communicate hands-free. This includes dialing a phone number or answering/ending a call.

Holding your phone or another type of mobile device while you’re driving may result in a fine and penalties, such as points being assessed to your driver’s license.

Ways to avoid texting while driving

Reading or sending a text while you’re behind the wheel of a motor vehicle is against the law and extremely dangerous, yet that doesn’t stop some drivers in Indiana from doing it.

To ensure you are driving responsibility, follow these safety tips to help prevent a car accident caused by distracted driving:

  • If you must read or send a text, pull over where it’s safe and park your car before you look at your phone. Even looking down at your phone for just a second is unsafe when you’re operating a motor vehicle.
  • Ask a passenger to be your “designated texter.” Give the person access to your phone so they can respond to any messages, notifications, or calls.
  • Even if you’re not reading or sending a text, do not use your phone to look at games or apps. It’s been shown that cellphone use can be addictive, and while it may be tempting to open Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, or some other social media app while you’re driving, doing so greatly increases your risk of a serious crash.
  • If you can’t resist the urge of looking at your phone when you’re driving, stow the device in your trunk, glove box, or back seat of your car until you’re done driving. Keeping the device easily accessible may be too tempting for some drivers.
  • If someone else is texting and driving or otherwise distracted while you’re a passenger in their car, immediately tell them to stop what they’re doing and ask them to concentrate on the road.
  • Don’t get complacent. Many people who text and drive give themselves a pass simply because they think they are the exception to the rule and aren’t at risk of causing a bad accident. Never risk the safety of others on the road just because you’ve been fortunate enough not to get into a distracted driving crash.

Vaughan & Vaughan holds distracted drivers accountable

Our law firm was founded in 1913 by Charles L. Vaughan and Vincent D. Vaughan, brothers who wanted to serve as strong advocates for the injured in the Greater Lafayette area. A new generation of the family runs Vaughan and Vaughan now, but our motto is still the same: “It’s all about the client.”

If you or a loved one was injured in a crash caused by someone who was texting and driving or was otherwise distracted, our car accident lawyers can handle every aspect of your claim and fight for the compensation you deserve. Contact us today for a free case evaluation. Our office is located in Lafayette and we proudly serve clients in all of Indiana.

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