There are many ways that one can become distracted while driving. A driver’s mind may wander to the problems they have to face that day. They may reach for something in the passenger’s seat or look at something on the side of the road. Perhaps worst of all, they may try to read or send a text message, which causes them to take their thoughts, eyes, and hands away from the task of driving.Distracted Driving by the Numbers
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has defined four types of distracted driving:
- Visual distraction (e.g., looking away from the roadway)
- Auditory distraction (e.g., loud horn nearby or ringing cell phone)
- Biomechanical distraction (e.g., adjusting the dashboard controls or the overhead visor)
- Cognitive distraction (e.g., engaged in unrelated thought or mind-wandering)
Texting or otherwise using a cell phone while driving may qualify as all four types of distraction. If you are driving at 55 miles per hour and you take your eyes off the road for just 5 seconds to send a text, you will have traveled the length of a football field.
Distracted driving statistics show these kinds of mistakes happen far too often. The CDC tells us that over 3,000 will die because of distracted driving in 2020.1 The good news is that the number of people killed in distracted driver accidents is down slightly in recent years.2 The bad news is that distracted driving still kills and injures thousands of people every year.
As many as 1 in 3 teens in the U.S. admit to texting and driving at least once.3 One new study found that 58% of accidents involving teenagers were caused by driver distraction. However, all age groups are guilty of distracted driving and texting. Parents of the Millennial generation and older are all guilty of texting while driving.4 Older individuals too can be distracted by in-vehicle technology while driving because they struggle with the interfaces.5
Do these distracted driving statistics tell the whole story? If you rear-end a vehicle on your way home tonight because you were on your phone texting, how likely are you to tell the police officer that you caused the crash by texting? This is the problem with these statistics, right? The problem could be even worse than we think.
One thing we see that rarely gets talked about is pedestrians on cell phones. Our lawyers find it hard to walk to lunch in Baltimore without seeing ten pedestrians crossing the street on the phone. So not only do distracted drivers collide with pedestrians, but pedestrians who are texting (or reading ESPN.com or whatever) are less likely to look both ways before crossing the street.6
There is one final thought before we get into your frequently asked distracted driving questions and statistics. Distracted driving causes thousands of people to die every year. It is a huge problem. But if you are using these statistics to write a school paper, please do not diminish the significance of the distracted and texting while driving problem by exaggerating it. Don't be so lazy and take everything at face value. And, please, don't miss what is right under your nose. Speed is a contributing cause in 30% of fatal accident and alcohol is a case in 28% of fatalities. Texting and distracted driving is an important piece to the puzzle. But it is not the only piece.
So if you read, for one annoying example, that "92% of respondents agreed that texting and driving is as dangerous as driving under the influence" you can put that in your school paper like a robot or you can question the premise. Drunk driving is the largest cause of reasonably preventable car accident deaths and daydreaming for a moment is one heck of a lot less dangerous than driving drunk. Convenient distortions of statistics to make the problem seem worse than it is are easily identified by people with half a brain leads paradoxically to people taking distracted driving less seriously.
In Maryland, talking on the phone with a handheld device is prohibited, as is texting. The one exception is using a phone to call 911. This includes, even, checking messages when stopped at a red light.
Minor drivers with their learner’s permits or provisional licenses are not allowed to call at all, even if using a hands-free device. Headsets, earphones, and earplugs are also prohibited. Using GPS is allowed, but only if displayed properly.
A driver who causes serious bodily harm or death in an accident because they were talking on a handheld device or texting may go to prison for up to a year and be fined $5,000. These drivers may also be guilty of reckless and negligent driving or even of vehicular manslaughter.
Drivers who are found talking on the phone while driving can be given a ticket of up to $75 for a first offense. Minors under 18 found doing the same can have their licenses suspended for 90 days.
If you text and drive in Maryland, you are guilty of a misdemeanor and can be charged up to $500. This adds 1 point to your driving record. The 90-day suspension for minors likewise applies.
If a jury sees that a driver was texting when they caused the accident that injured you, it is almost certain that you will win an award and that it will be higher than if your claim did not involve a distracted driver.
However, getting the fact that the other driver was texting into evidence and proving it is challenging. When a driver admits responsibility, under Maryland law, the fact that they were texting should not come into evidence.
Thus, a good defense lawyer will likely admit their client was at fault to avoid their texting from being revealed to the jury. However, there are a few evidentiary arguments that lawyers can make which have a chance at getting such evidence admitted at trial.
The National Safety Council reported that 349 out of 2,279 distracted-affected fatal crashes in 2018, about 13 percent, involved cell phone use.
The Maryland Highway Safety Office reported that 185 people die in Maryland each year as a result of distracted driving.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration statistic tell us that approximately that 434 people died as a result of accidents that involved cell-phone use in 2017.
A 2019 Liberty Mutual global driving survey found that around 86 percent of U.S. Millennials (born between 1981 and 1996) admitted to using their phone while driving. This compares to 72 percent of Gen X'ers (born between 1965 and 1980) and 49 percent of boomers (born between 1946 and 1964).
A new AAA report found that cell phone use increases the traffic accident risk between two to eight times compared to drivers who are not distracted by electronic devices.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reported that 434 individuals died in cell phone-related accidents. But that is a guess that underestimates the number of cell phone-related accidents. Too often, we just don't know why the driver was distracted because the distracted driver is either dead or lying about how the accident happened.
A 2019 National Highway Traffic Safety Administration survey found that more than half of cell phone-related fatal crashes involved drivers between the ages of 15 and 30.
Specifically, 16 percent were drivers between the ages of 15 and 19 years and 37 percent were drivers between the ages of 20 and 29 years.
- 2019, Connecticut: $235,000 Settlement. A motorist entered the plaintiff's travel lane and struck her vehicle head-on. The woman suffered soft-tissue injuries, post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, and panic attacks. Pretty typical distracted driving story. The woman claimed that the motorist was texting her husband right before the collision. Her insurance company's lawyer responded to the lawsuit denying the woman’s allegations and, as insurance companies do, contested the severity of her injuries. But the defense gave way to a $235,000 settlement.
- October 2019, Oregon: $6,700 Verdict A man is a passenger in a car driven by his son. They take an off-ramp from the highway and begin proceeding through a green light when they stop abruptly to avoid colliding with a car that is running the red light in the opposite direction. The car behind them, however, fails to stop and rear-ends them. As a result, the father suffers injuries to his neck, back, and shoulder. In his lawsuit against the rear-end driver, the father seeks the testimony of a distracted driver expert. The defendant, however, denies fault. Though he originally sought $250,000, the father is only awarded $6,700 for his medical expenses and non-economic damages.
- September 2019, Pennsylvania: $200,000 Verdict The plaintiff is rear-ended by a distracted driver while stopped at a red light. The at-fault driver was looking down at his phone when he collided with the plaintiff. The plaintiff and his wife file against the driver, the plaintiff alleging pain & suffering, loss of income, and medical expenses, and the wife alleging loss of consortium. They also sue their insurer, GEICO, for refusing to pay underinsured motorist benefits. A jury awards $200K to the plaintiff.
- May 2019, Oklahoma: $19,600 Settlement A father is driving with his two children. Another driver tailgates him while texting, and eventually, rear-ends the family’s car. He and the children suffer unspecified injuries and file a lawsuit against the at-fault driver, alleging negligence, negligence per se (violation of the law), and res ipsa loquitur (negligence inferred from nature of the accident). They settle with the defendant’s insurer, USAA, for a total of $19.6K, which is split between medical costs, attorney fees, and savings accounts for the two children.
- April 2019, California: $12,000 Verdict (Judge reduced to $10,000) A 38-year-old firefighter is rear-ended while stopped at a red light. The at-fault driver was changing his radio dial, did not realize that the light had changed, and rear-ended the plaintiff. The plaintiff suffers herniated discs and other spinal injuries. He is awarded $12,000 by a jury, and the judge reduces the award to $10,000 to accommodate for a previous settlement.
The attorneys at Miller & Zois have won millions of dollars for car accident victims. We cannot undo the damage that reckless and distracted driving caused you. We can, however, help you win compensation that will help you pay for medical bills and lost wages, and compensate you for your pain and suffering. Call us at (800) 553-8082 or go online for a free consultation.More Resources
- Value of accidents by type of injury
- Value of accidents by crash type
- Car accident FAQs
- Dealing with different car insurance companies
- Sample demand letter
- Advice for handling your own case
- “Distracted Driving 2016,” National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 2018.
- “Texting/Emailing While Driving Among High School Students in 35 States, United States, 2015,” by Li Li et al., Journal of Adolescent Health, 2018.
- “Patterns of Texting and Driving in a US National Survey of Millennial Parents vs Older Parents,” by Jennifer Gliklich et al., JAMA Pediatrics, 2019.
- “Age-Related Differences in the Cognitive, Visual and Temporal Demands of In-Vehicle Information Systems,” AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, 2019.
- “Plight of the distracted pedestrian: a research synthesis and meta-analysis of mobile phone use on crossing behaviour,” Injury Prevention, 2020.