Distracted driving takes lives every day in the United States. It's often blamed for recent increases in overall fatalities. For instance, when 37,461 people died in car accidents in 2016, despite an overall trend of decreasing fatalities for decades, that was a 5.6 percent increase over the 2015 fatality totals.
In other words, roads that were getting safer for years were suddenly getting more dangerous again, and distracted driving played a pivotal role. Many experts blame smartphones, although in-car technology has also taken some heat. Anything that makes the driver stop thinking about driving, even for a moment, is a risk.
By the numbers
To better understand this risk, here are a few key statistics to keep in mind:
- The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports that 10 percent of deadly accidents happen because drivers get distracted.
- Distraction also leads to about 15 percent of accidents resulting in injury, per the NHTSA.
- In 2015, distraction led to 391 injuries and 3,477 deaths.
- Even those statistics could be low, as experts note that these types of accidents tend to be under-reported.
- The younger the driver, the greater the chances of distraction. For instance, the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety says that over 58 percent of wrecks with teenage drivers happen due to distraction. At the same time, the fatality rate for teenagers is much higher than it is for adults, clocking in at three times higher than those who are at least 20 years old. In short, teens die in accidents far too often, and distraction is often the reason why.
You may be wondering why these accidents tend to be underreported, and the problem often lies in the fact that they're hard to prove. If a driver is under the influence of alcohol or drugs, tests can show that. If a driver breaks the speed limit, reconstruction teams can discover it after the fact. If a driver runs a red light, witness testimony and dash camera video footage can show what happened.
With distracted driving accidents, the evidence is not always so abundant. A driver may browse social media while driving, cause a wreck, and then simply put their phone away and lie about the distraction. While the authorities can sometimes find out if a person got distracted -- by checking text message records to see if they sent a message right before the crash, for example -- they can't always do it and they can't always find proof.
Learning about your rights
If you have gotten involved in an accident with a distracted driver and experienced pain and suffering and/or serious injuries, be sure you understand all of your legal options. You may be able to seek financial compensation for medical bills and other costs.