Law enforcement plans April crackdown during Distracted Driving Awareness Month
Distracted driving is a major cause of preventable serious and fatal car accidents.
Even though most people know texting and driving or taking their eyes off the road to manually update a GPS or change music is dangerous, they do it anyway. In a recent AAA survey, about one-third of drivers admitted to driving distracted in the prior month.
To refocus attention on just how dangerous distracted driving is, Indiana and other traffic safety officials are participating in Distracted Driving Awareness Month. This April is a chance to bring everyone's attention to a longstanding and deadly problem.
Distracted driving can be caused by anything that takes a driver's eyes, hands, and/or attention off the road while operating a motor vehicle. Cellphone use is a frequent source of driver distraction. Other distractions include drinking, eating, changing music, and talking with passengers.
Distracted driving statistics
In 2019, the year with the most recent information available, more than 3,000 people died in distracted driving car accidents across the nation, including 39 fatalities in Indiana.
Police and other traffic officials estimate that distracted driving is most likely underreported. The bad behavior can be difficult to prove, and negligent drivers who cause crashes rarely admit to being distracted. Overall, cellphone use is suspected in about 13 percent of fatal car accidents, according to a AAA traffic study.
Compared to other states, Indiana has a low distracted driving crash rate with 4.5 fatalities per 10 billion motor vehicle miles traveled. (The state with the highest rate - 53.9 - is New Mexico.) Still, fatal car accidents involving distracted drivers happen here far too often.
Earlier this year, for example, an Illinois man suspected of distracted driving was charged with causing a fatal car accident on US-41 in Lowell. The truck driver is accused of surfing the internet moments before the crash. His charges include reckless homicide, criminal recklessness, and misdemeanor distracted driving.
Indiana distracted driving laws
Indiana has a hands-free cellphone law that went into effect in 2020. A no-texting law has been on the books since 2011.
Except in emergency situations, using a mobile device while driving in Indiana can lead to up to $500 in fines.
The state is serious about stopping distracted driving. In the first year of the hands-free law, Indiana law enforcement issued about 5,000 citations and 10,000 warnings to violators.
This month, Indiana law enforcement departments, like the Lawrence County Sheriff's Office, will run Connect 2 Disconnect campaigns. Funded in part by the federal highway administration, C2D features increased, high-visibility enforcement of distracted driving laws.
Reduce the risk
There are some ways that drivers can reduce the temptation to drive distracted. The National Highway and Traffic Safety Administration offers these recommendations:
- If you are expecting a phone call or text, pull over and park your vehicle in a safe place before using your phone.
- Designate a "texter." This person sends and responds to messages for you while you drive.
- Activate your phone's "do not disturb" feature or put your phone in the trunk of your car or locked glove box so you cannot access it.
- Set a good example by not driving distracted - especially in front of teens and children. Teens who have parents who drive distracted are two to four times as likely to also drive distracted.
- If someone is driving distracted with you in the vehicle, say something. Staying quiet normalizes risky driving behavior.
Crash victims have the right to seek compensation
Regardless of the source of distraction, when drivers hurt others because they weren't paying attention, they should be held responsible. And if you were injured in a car accident that was not your fault, you shouldn't have to pay for someone else's negligent actions.
Unfortunately, the process of recovering compensation for your losses is usually anything but easy. Insurance companies care more about protecting their bottom line than making you whole again, and insurance adjusters are experts at minimizing the value of injury claims. Often, hiring an experienced car accident attorney is the best way to get the compensation you're entitled to.
You don't have to take on the insurance company by yourself. At Vaughan & Vaughan, we've been fighting for Indiana families since 1913 and understand what it takes to get the results you need and deserve.
Contact us today for a free consultation with an experienced Indiana car accident lawyer. A member of our team can answer your questions, estimate the value of your claim, and help you weigh your legal options. With six offices located throughout the state, we proudly serve clients in Lafayette, Indianapolis, and all of Indiana.