Driving gets more risky all the time. Here in Massachusetts and across the nation, accidents from distracted drivers are more common than ever. Hundreds of thousands of people are injured each year in vehicle accidents related to distracted driving. According to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA), in 2013 alone 424,000 people were hurt in these types of crashes. In fact, the National Safety Council (NSC) estimates that one in four motor vehicle accidents now involve cell phone use! If you are in a car accident because another driver was texting instead of paying attention, contact an experienced injury lawyer without delay to make sure your rights are protected.
The explosive growth of cell phone use and texting while driving has caused state after state to adopt new laws to address this important safety issue. The Governors Highway Safety Association has recognized the devastating impact distracted driving can have – Massachusetts and forty-five other states ban text messaging for all drivers. That is, at no time is it lawful or safe for you to text message while you are operating a motor vehicle in Massachusetts. In addition, while cell phone use is not banned in Massachusetts, it is prohibited by school bus drivers and junior motor vehicle operators (drivers under eighteen years of age). However, even though laws are in place, it does not mean that everyone is following them.
In distracted driving cases, where injury or even death has occurred, similar descriptions are all too often heard– “It was only for a split second”; “If I could take it back I would”; “I just glanced at my phone”. There seems to be a common sentiment – a negligent or distracted driver did not intend to harm anyone, but those seconds of inattention, can have devastating consequences.
One particularly troubling statistic involves younger drivers: ten percent of all drivers under the age of twenty who were involved in a vehicle accident resulting in a fatality were reported as distracted at the time of the crash (http://www.NHTSA.gov). In a landmark case in Massachusetts (Commonwealth v. Deveau), an eighteen year old driver was texting and crossed the centerline of the road and hit a car head-on. The driver of the other car died and his passenger was seriously injured. The eighteen year-old was convicted of vehicular homicide and sent to jail. When the convicted driver addressed the Court, he stated that, “I made a mistake. If I could take it back I would.” His license was suspended for fifteen years. The lives of the family of the deceased driver, the surviving passenger, and the distracted driver changed forever because of that one moment of inattention.
The truth is – nobody wins in these circumstances. In addition to criminal implications, distracted drivers are responsible for the injuries, damages, and in the worst case, death, that their neglectful driving causes. Even when insurance is available, depending on the extent of the injuries and damage, the coverage is not always sufficient. This sometimes leaves injured persons and/or their family members lost and confused about if and how they will recover and who will pay for the damages caused by the driver. If you or a loved one is injured because of a distracted driver, you should know your rights. If you find yourself in this situation, you should contact an experienced attorney and protect yourself and your family.
If you are interested in learning more about distracted driving and how to work toward preventing it, the NSC website offers a number of impact stories, and each April, it hosts a Distracted Driving Awareness Month observance to highlight this issue on a national scale. The NSC website (http://www.nsc.org/pages/home.aspx) links to free resources to address distracted driving issues and several tips to help prevent distracted driving:
- Stop using your phone while driving.
- Use social media to tell others about the dangers of cell phone distracted driving.
- Take the pledge to drive cell-free.
- Learn more about Distracted Driving Awareness Month.
However, if you find that you are a victim of distracted driving, whether by texting, cell phone use, or other inattention of the other driver, please consult an attorney that can explain your rights to you and will fight for them.