What is The Definition of Distracted Driving?
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), auto accidents caused by distracted driving claim the lives of nine people every day across the United States. That equates to more than 3,200 deaths each year that could likely have been prevented had the distracted driver been paying attention to the road.
With an increasing number of auto accidents caused by distracted driving, it is important that anyone on U.S. roadways understands just what distracted driving is. Read on to learn more about the definition of distracted driving and how to avoid putting yourself, your passengers, and others on the roadway in danger. If you have been injured in an auto accident caused by a distracted driver, contact The Dixon Firm to learn more about your legal rights.
What is the Definition of Distracted Driving?
With such a significant focus on texting while driving, many people forget that distracted driving encompasses much more than that one behavior. In fact, the definition of distracted driving includes any activity that may cause distraction or take a driver’s focus, eyes, or mental concentration off the task of driving.
According to the U.S. Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV), distracted driving includes:
- Texting on a phone or mobile device
- Talking on the phone
- Changing music stations or adjusting knobs
- Checking maps or GPS settings
- Taking photos (yes, even selfies!)
- Checking email or social media sites
- Eating or drinking
- Grooming (putting on makeup, brushing teeth, shaving, etc.)
- Talking to, or engaging with, passengers in the vehicle
Most readers can relate to one or more of these activities because being in a vehicle commonly involves adjusting the radio or temperature, checking a GPS, or talking to people in the vehicle. While these activities all seem relatively harmless, they all can be distracting, and can put lives in danger.
Most readers can also recall one or more instances where they have seen other drivers engaging in unsafe behavior while driving. It is not at all uncommon to see another driver swerve, miss a stop sign or red light, or pull out into traffic without paying attention. A closer inspection may reveal that the driver was on the phone, reaching into the backseat, eating, or texting. In such cases, a distracted driver may also be a distraction that can cause accidents by onlookers.
What is the Extent of the Distracted Driving Problem?
The DMV has called distracted driving “one of the country’s biggest health concerns”. If that in itself does not suggest the extent of the problem, let’s take a closer look at some statistics. Consider the following:
- According to the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT), sending a text message takes your eyes off the road for an average of five seconds. That equates to the same amount of time it takes to drive across a football field at 55 miles-per-hour (MPH).
- The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHSTA) estimates that during daylight hours, around 481,000 drivers are using cell phones or other mobile devices at any given moment while driving.
- Teenagers have the highest rate of reported distraction following fatal auto accidents.
- In 2015, 391,000 people were injured in auto accidents involving a distracted driver.
- In 2016, 3,450 people were killed in distracted driving accidents.
- Between 2014 and 2015, there was a 3.5 percent increase in the number of distracted driving accidents reported.
Even with these statistics highlighting a serious problem, they only scratch the surface. Many distracted driving accidents are unreported, as drivers fail to provide adequate information about distraction. With that in mind, the number of accidents, injuries, and deaths attributed to distracted driving could be much higher.
What are Distracted Driving Laws?
Many, but not all, states have implemented general laws related to distracted driving. These general laws may not address specific activities. Many states have also chosen to ban specific activities, such as texting while driving, while not addressing a more general definition of distracted driving.
On a national level, the NHTSA has been working tirelessly to educate American drivers to the dangers of distracted driving. The NHTSA has partnered with many states to implement education and legislation related to distractions. The NHTSA offers federal advice and guidance, but the ultimate decision about distracted driving laws is left up to individual states. According to the Governors’ Highway Safety Association (GHSA), distracted driving laws currently include the following:
- 17 states, most recently including Georgia, have prohibited hand-held cell phone use while driving for all drivers of all ages.
- 38 states have banned cell phone use by novice drivers.
- 20 states and D.C. have banned cell phone use by school bus drivers.
- 47 states have banned texting while driving.
- 48 states have police report forms that include the category of “distraction”.
- No state has implemented a complete cell phone ban while driving for all drivers of all ages.
Georgia’s Distracted Driving Laws
Georgia’s distracted driving laws have been strict since their inception, and they continue to target specific distractions. Currently, Georgia’s distracted driving laws include:
- All drivers are prohibited from texting while driving. This is a primary law meaning that drivers can be ticketed for texting, even if their vehicle is stopped.
- Drivers under age 18 are prohibited from using a hand-held cell phone or hands-free cell phone while driving. This is also a primary law, and can result in ticketing.
- School bus drivers are prohibited from using hand-held or hands-free cell phones while driving.
New laws taking effect on July 1st will make Georgia’s distracted driving laws even more strict. House Bill 673 makes the following changes to Georgia law:
- All drivers are prohibited from supporting or holding any wireless device with any part of the body.
- All drivers are prohibited from reading or sending any form of text-based communication while holding a device, including email, text message, instant message, or transmitting internet data.
- All drivers are prohibited from watching or recording movies or video while behind-the-wheel.
Find Out More about Your Rights and Responsibilities
If you have questions about Georgia law, distracted driving, or how to get help after an auto accident, contact The Dixon Firm to speak with one of our Atlanta auto accident attorneys. It is important to understand your rights and responsibilities before hitting the road.