Distracted driving remains a leading cause of auto accidents in the US. While responding to a text or queuing a song on Spotify might seem like no big deal, these distractions put everyone on the road—including yourself—at risk of injury and even death.
If you were recently involved in a car accident caused by a distracted driver, the auto accident lawyers at Esquire Law are here to help. We specialize in various types of auto accident cases, including those involving distracted driving. Before reaching out to us, take some time to learn about the impact of distracted driving, its legal consequences, and ways to prevent it.
Understanding Distracted Driving
Despite being used frequently when discussing common causes of car accidents, many drivers don’t know what distracted driving entails. Distracted driving is a term that refers broadly to any instance in which a driver shifts their attention away from the road and onto something else. The source of distraction can be anything from texting to eating food to severe weather conditions. Distracted driving can impact not only the distracted driver but also any passengers, other drivers and passengers, cyclists, and pedestrians.
The CDC categorizes the causes of distracted driving into three distinct groups.
- Visual: You take your eyes off the road
- Manual: You take your hands off the steering wheel
- Cognitive: You take your mind off driving
Leading Causes of Distracted Driving
The top causes of distracted driving are:
- Using a cellphone
- Eating and drinking
- Communicating with passengers
- Inputting and checking directions
- Controlling the music
- Adjusting the temperature
- Using the sun visor mirror
How Distracted Driving Impacts Auto Accident Statistics
Distracted driving is a leading cause of auto accidents in the US. According to the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), nine people die in crashes every day as a direct result of distracted driving. In 2019 alone, more than 3,100 people died, and an additional 424,000 sustained injuries in car accidents that involved distracted driving. The number of fatalities increased to 3,142 in 2020 and 3,522 in 2021. Teen drivers—specifically those who are 18 and 19—are most likely to drive while distracted.
The Legal Consequences of Distracted Driving in Arizona & Utah
Due to the growing number of distracted driving accidents each year in the US, many states now have laws in place that penalize motorists for driving while distracted. It’s illegal in both Arizona and Utah to drive a motor vehicle while using a mobile device that’s not in hands-free mode. Depending on the severity of the accident, violating these laws can result in fines or even jail time.
Arizona enacted a Hands-Off law in 2021, making it illegal for drivers to hold or use cell phones and other electronic devices while operating a vehicle.
Per the Arizona Department of Public Safety, it is illegal to:
- Hold or support a device with your body, including in your hands and perched on your shoulder
- Read, write, or send a message via any portable wireless communication device
- Scroll through social media, watch videos, record videos, or any other use of the device that causes a distraction and requires the use of your body
It is not illegal to:
- Engage and disengage a function on the device, such as GPS route start and answering or ending a call
- Talk on the portable wireless communication device with an earpiece, headphone device, or device worn on the wrist to conduct voice-based communication
- Use a device for navigation of the vehicle
- Use a device in an emergency situation to summon help or report a crime
As of May 2022, Utah made it illegal to use a wireless communication device while operating a motor vehicle.
According to the Utah State Legislature, it is illegal to use a wireless communication device to:
- Write or send written communication, including text messages, instant messages, or electronic mail
- Dial a phone number
- Access the internet
- Record video
- Take a photograph
- Enter data into the device
- Read written communication, including text messages, instant messages, or electronic mail
- Video a video or photograph
It is not illegal to use a wireless communication device:
- To utilize voice communication features
- To view a GPS device or application
- During a medical emergency
- When reporting a safety hazard or requesting assistance relating to a safety hazard
- When reporting criminal activity or requesting assistance relating to a criminal activity
- To operate hands-free or voice-operated technology or a system that is physically or electronically integrated into the motor vehicle
An Attorney’s Role
A licensed personal injury attorney can help victims of distracted driving accidents get the justice they deserve by:
- Gathering and assessing evidence
- Keeping track of medical records
- Acquiring the police report or accident report
- Determining fault
- Estimating the cost of damages
- Negotiating with insurance companies and the at-fault party’s attorney
- Representing them in court
How to Reduce the Occurrence of Distracted Driving Accidents
When it comes to driving, things like texting and eating can wait until you’re off the road. They’re not worth putting yourself and others at risk. The good news about distracted driving accidents is that they’re fully preventable. Although not an exhaustive list, here are three practical ways to remove distractions while you’re driving.
- Don’t multitask: When you’re driving, focus only on the task at hand. Don’t eat, text, make phone calls, input directions, change songs, reach for something in the passenger seat, or do anything else that would take your eyes or mind off the road.
- Limit passengers: The more passengers you have in your car, the more likely they are to distract you. Simply limiting the number of passengers who ride with you can help reduce distractions and keep you safe.
- Communicate plans: If you know that you’ll be driving at a certain point in the day, let close family and friends know. A quick message saying that you’re about to be on the road and can’t talk for X amount of time may keep them from texting and calling during your journey. That way, you won’t be tempted to respond to a text or answer the phone while you drive.
What to Do if You’re Involved in a Distracted Driving Accident
These are the six steps you should take after getting into a distracted driving accident.
- Ensure Safety: Check yourself and any passengers in your vehicle for visible injuries. Next, check on all other drivers, passengers, and pedestrians involved. If you’re able to do so safely, move your vehicle to the shoulder or a nearby parking lot until help arrives.
- Call for Help: Call 9-1-1 to notify the police of the accident. The police will gather witness statements and file an official police report outlining the details of the accident. This report will be used to determine fault and help assign compensatory damages. Emergency personnel will also respond to the scene if immediate medical attention is needed. If the police don’t arrive at the scene, you can file an accident report through the local DMV.
- Exchange Information: Exchange insurance information with the other driver(s) involved in the accident.
- Gather Evidence: Take photos and videos of the scene. Be as thorough as possible. Retake any photos or videos as needed.
- Seek Medical Attention: Whether or not you have any visible injuries, we highly recommend visiting an urgent care clinic or primary care doctor immediately upon leaving the scene. You may have internal injuries that otherwise wouldn’t present themselves until days or even weeks after the accident. Be sure to request proof of payment and copies of any scans taken to provide your insurance company and attorney with evidence.
- Notify Insurance: Don’t forget to report the accident to your insurance company, even if you didn’t cause it. You can file a claim against another driver or their insurance company. An adjuster will contact you shortly after the accident to gather additional information.
Contact a Trusted Distracted Driving Accident Lawyer in Arizona & Utah
If a distracted driver caused an accident that resulted in significant damages, you shouldn’t have to pay the costs out of your own pocket. At Esquire Law, you can count on a car accident lawyer to hold the negligent driver accountable for their actions. We’ll fight for your rights every step of the way to secure the financial compensation you need to pay for things like:
- Medical bills
- Car repairs
- Lost wages
- Rehabilitative care
- And more
Don’t wait to get the justice you deserve. Contact Esquire Law Firm today for a free case evaluation.