Last year, more than 3,100 people were killed in accidents that involved distracted drivers, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). While distracted drivers have always been a risk on the road, the increase in cell phone use and other vehicle technology has prompted calls for awareness about the very real and dangerous problem of driving while distracted.
What Is Distracted Driving?
Distracted driving is defined by the NHTSA as any activity that diverts a driver’s attention away from the task of driving. It can take many forms, and some of the most common causes include:
- Talking on the phone (handheld or hands free)
- Talking to passengers
- Eating or drinking
- Using navigation systems
- Changing the radio or using another music system
- Personal grooming
- Tending to children or pets
- Gawking at outside distractions
The Dangers of Distracted Driving
Many drivers dismiss the risks of distracted driving because changing the radio station or checking a quick phone text may seem to take only a brief moment or two. However, research has shown that these distractions are very dangerous. For example, the NHTSA states that sending or reading a text takes about 5 seconds, and if you’re traveling at 55 mph, that’s equivalent to driving the length of a football field with your eyes closed. In that time, any number of road conditions could change. The driver in front of you could stop suddenly; a child could run into the road; or you could slowly drift off the road toward a median or ditch. With little or no time to react, serious and deadly accidents can occur.
Distracted Driving Laws in Alabama
Each state has the authority to address distracted driving behaviors differently. In Alabama, there are specific laws that address cell phone use behind the wheel. These laws include:
- Drivers age 16 (or 17 who have had an intermediate license for six months or less) are prohibited from any cell phone use while driving.
- All drivers are prohibited from texting while driving.
Both these laws are primary enforcement laws, which means that law enforcement can issue a ticket for these offenses without any other traffic offenses having occurred. If you are spotted on your phone violating these laws, police can pull you over solely for the phone-related violation.
While other distractions don’t have laws written to specifically address them—for example, it’s not illegal to use your car radio—drivers can be held responsible when a distraction causes an accident. Above all, drivers have a responsibility to act in a manner that encourages the safety of all those who share the road. When they fail in that duty by not staying focused on the task of driving, they can be held accountable.
When You’re in an Accident With a Distracted Driver
It can be difficult to know and prove that the driver who caused your crash was distracted. However, evidence can be gathered to help support your claim, including:
- Accident scene photos. After an accident, it’s a good idea to take photos of the scene. The placement of items in or around a car can suggest that the driver was not fully focused on driving. This can include fast food containers, cell phones, makeup, cigarettes, and more.
- Eyewitness stories. Often, other drivers or pedestrians witness an accident and the moments leading up to it. They may be able to tell law enforcement that the at-fault driver was texting, talking on the phone, or eating while behind the wheel.
- Police reports. While it may seem surprising, the police report may include a confession from the distracted driver. The police will ask all the parties involved for their version of events. Many times, the at-fault driver will detail his own distraction as the cause of the accident.
- Cell phone records. If necessary, it is possible to have the cell phone records of the at-fault driver handed over. This way, it can be determined if the driver was using his phone at the time of the accident.
Request a Free Consultation
If you or someone you love suffered injuries in an accident with a distracted driver, you may be entitled to compensation. At Lattof & Lattof, our legal team provides accident victims both the peace of mind and the effective legal representation they need to move forward. Our lawyers can investigate your accident and help you fully understand your rights. Call our Mobile office today, or take a moment to fill out the contact form on this page. You’ll speak with a member of our team who can help you schedule a free, no-obligation consultation.