April is Distracted Driving Awareness Month, as recognized by the National Safety Council (NSC). Unfortunately, like so many other events in South Carolina and across the country, the NSC has made the decision to postpone recognition of Distracted Driving Awareness Month to October due to the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis.
But, although Distracted Driving Awareness Month may be postponed, it is still extremely important for drivers and passengers to be aware of the risks of distracted driving. Distracted driving is now the leading cause of car accidents in the United States, and distracted drivers are responsible for thousands of deaths and hundreds of thousands of injuries every year.
WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO BE A DISTRACTED DRIVER?
When it comes to driving, anything that disrupts a driver’s attention to the task at hand is considered a distraction. This includes visual, cognitive, and manual distractions. As explained by the NSC:
- Visual distractions take drivers’ eyes off the road ahead. Rubbernecking (looking at an accident on the other side of the road) is a common example, as is looking at oneself in the mirror.
- Cognitive distractions interfere with drivers’ focus on the task of operating their vehicles safely. For example, listening to hands-free phone calls and having in-depth conversations with passengers have both been shown to impair drivers’ ability to interpret and react to other drivers’ behavior.
- Manual distractions are those that take drivers’ hands off of the wheel. Examples include eating, drinking, smoking, changing radio stations or playlists, and attempting to retrieve items that have fallen into the footwell.
Some distractions are particularly dangerous because they cause visual, cognitive, and manual impairments. In particular, these include texting, sending emails, and using social media behind the wheel. The dangers of handheld cell phone use are now well known, but, unfortunately, statistics show that far too many South Carolina residents and visitors continue to use their phones while driving.
WHAT STEPS SHOULD YOU TAKE AFTER AN ACCIDENT INVOLVING A DISTRACTED DRIVER?
If you have been involved in an accident involving a distracted driver, or if you have lost a loved one in a distracted driving accident, what should you do? First and foremost, if you are in pain or experiencing other symptoms of a serious injury, you should see a doctor right away. Even at low speeds, car accidents can cause severe traumatic injuries, and seeing a doctor promptly could be important to your long-term wellbeing.
Once you have sought medical attention (if necessary), you next need to focus on your financial recovery. Serious and fatal car accidents can lead to significant financial and non-financial losses, and distracted drivers can be held liable under South Carolina law. Hopefully, the distracted driver has adequate insurance coverage, and recovering your losses will be a matter of dealing with his or her insurance company. If not, you may need to look to other sources, such as your own uninsured/underinsured motorist (UIM) policy.
In order to file a successful insurance claim, you will need to have experienced legal representation. Even if the driver admitted to texting behind the wheel at the scene, proving your claim could still be a challenge. Additionally, you need to ensure that you are seeking full compensation for all of your financial and non-financial losses, and you will need to work with a South Carolina auto accident attorney to determine how much you are entitled to recover. You could also be entitled to punitive damages, and, if you are, you will need to hire a lawyer to fight for your rights in court.
HOW CAN YOU AVOID LIABILITY FOR DISTRACTED DRIVING?
When discussing liability for distracted driving accidents, it is also important to discuss what you can do to avoid being labeled a distracted driver. Not only is this critical for staying safe on the road, but it is also important for avoiding allegations of “comparative negligence.” If the other driver’s insurance company claims that you or your loved one was also distracted at the time of the collision, it may try to use this to try to deny payment of compensation or reduce your financial recovery.
In order to stay safe behind the wheel, the South Carolina Department of Insurance (DOI) recommends:
- Plan your route ahead of time and set your GPS directions before you start driving.
- If you want to listen to something, pick your radio station or select your podcast or playlist while you are still parked.
- Put your phone and any other items that may distract you out of reach.
- Keep your eyes on the road while you are driving. Recognize when you get distracted and return your focus to the road immediately.
- Let your passengers know that you need to focus on driving.
- Set a good example for your children and teach your teen drivers about the risks of texting behind the wheel and other driving distractions.
The South Carolina DOI also encourages all residents to take the It Can Wait pledge. This is a pledge to yourself, your family, and other drivers in South Carolina that you will not give in to distractions behind the wheel.
Getting distracted behind the wheel is a mistake, and it is a mistake that all drivers can avoid. If you have been injured or a loved one has been killed by a distracted driver, you deserve to collect just compensation. At Lewis Law Firm LLC, we are passionate about holding distracted drivers accountable, and, if you are suffering due to the consequences of another driver’s mistake, we want to help you recover the financial compensation you deserve.
SCHEDULE A FREE, NO-OBLIGATION CONSULTATION IN ROCK HILL, SC
With offices in Rock Hill, our firm represents individuals and families in distracted driving accident cases throughout South Carolina. If you would like more information about seeking just compensation for your losses, we encourage you to get in touch. For a free, no-obligation consultation with one of our experienced auto accident lawyers, call (803) 327-1103 or tell us how we can help online now.