Implications of distracted driving
An average of 9 people die and more than 1,000 individuals sustain injuries as a result of distracted driving every year. The situation has become even more severe in the advent of mobile technology and automated features.
Statistics show 14% of fatal crashes caused by distracted driving involves cell phone use. It means that most accidents (86%) caused by distracted driving are a result of other causes. Automated vehicles are equipped with technology that makes a motorist’s driving experience more comfortable.
Satellite radios, GPS, in-car DVD players, for example, make driving more enjoyable, but they can also cause distractions. Read on to find out more about distracted driving and its legal ramifications on motorists.
What is Distracted Driving
According to OffTheRecord.com, it is anything that diverts your attention away from driving. Texting, talking with your cellphone, eating while driving, or using your navigation system are examples of distracted driving. The distractions not only endanger the life of the motorist but passengers and other motorists. There are three types of distracted driving:
These are activities that cause your eyes to wander off the road. It may include classic texting, looking at a GPS navigation system, driving while wearing clothes and more
This kind occurs when the driver takes one or both hands off the wheel to perform a task. Examples of such distractions include eating, smoking, turning car knobs, helping a child with a seat belt
This kind causes a driver’s mind to drift away from driving. It involves talking to other passengers, daydreaming, using hands-free calling devices
Legal Implication of Distracted Driving
All US states except Missouri, Arizona, and Montana have instituted bans on distracted driving caused by texting. Most state laws cite that driving while texting is a primary offense. As such, the police and other law enforcement body have the right to pull over a driver in violation of the ban.
Other states like Ohio, Florida, and South Dakota cite that text prohibition is a secondary offense for people over 18 years. Thus, the texting ban is only enforced if the driver is also in violation of the primary offense.
For example, if a motorist fails to stop at a stop sign because he is distracted by his cellphone, an officer can pull him over for failing to stop and report him for texting while driving.
Penalties for distracted driving vary from one state to another. The state of Virginia, for example, charges a fine of $20 for the first offense while Alaska charges a fine of $10,000 and ten-day imprisonment. Penalties increase with subsequent offenses.
How Distracted Driving Affects Car Insurance
Car insurance companies charge higher premiums on drivers found to be texting while driving. Sadly such risk behavior affects other motorists who may not necessarily be distracted while driving.
Insurance companies consider a range of factors when determining car insurance premiums, including your age, length of commute, the neighborhood you live in, your driving history, and the behavior of other drivers.
The last category explains why texting and driving impacts one’s insurance. However, the premiums depend on the state you live in. Insurance premiums have soared over the years, mainly because of distracted driving.
In South Carolina, for example, drivers saw a 9% increase in premiums in 2016 due to increased accident frequency due to distracted driving. Motorists in Massachusetts also had their premiums increased by 10% in 2017 due to the same reason.
Of course, it would be unfair for insurance companies to set premiums based on distracted driving only. While it is a significant factor, car insurance companies also factor in the trends in the car industry.
For example, when gas prices affordable and the economy is booming, more people are likely to purchase vehicles. Roads get congested, as a result causing more accidents. Also, as modern cars become less mechanical and computer-centric, the cost of car maintenance is likely to increase, which makes the average insurance payout even higher.
How to Mitigate the Consequences of Distracted Driving
Drivers who want to keep safe may want to acquaint themselves with ways to mitigate the consequences of this risky behavior.
Identify Activities that Cause Distracted Driving
The first step is to understand behavior likely to distract a motorist when driving. As such, apart from refraining from using a phone, you need to leave enough space between yourself and cars in front of you, identify blind spots, and avoid driving when tired.
Leverage on Technology
Motorists can leverage Apple’s Do Not Disturb While Driving feature that mutes calls, texts, and notifications when driving. The feature is designed to generate an auto-reply message that alerts people who are sending messages or calling that you will contact them when it’s safe to do so.
Some car insurers are also taking advantage of telematics technology that evaluates a motorist’s driving habits using a mobile app. Telematics apps measure features such as speed, the time of the day you drive, distance traveled, and instances of hard braking. Such measurements help the insurer understand how and when you drive, helping the company set lower premiums.
Additional Ways of Curbing Distracted Driving
- Reduce the number of passengers and level of activity when driving: Many states’ driver licensing laws have enforced bans on having teenage passengers in a vehicle during the first months of driving solo.
- Do your weekly maintenance: Regularly checking up your vehicle may avoid small annoyances along the road.
- Pull off if you are drowsy: Fatigue increases the risk of accidents four times. Studies show that 37% of US drivers fall asleep when driving.
- Avoid eating when driving: Finishing your lunch or breakfast on your way to school or work seems like you are saving time, but it means you are less attentive to motorists around you. Food spills have been a major cause of distraction.
- Avoid multi-tasking: Many people spend lots of time behind the wheel, which makes it seem like the perfect time to text, look for good music, and call friends. Such simple tasks can be distracting causing you to lose focus and crashing into someone’s car.
Article by Elle Russellyn. Russellyn is a freelance writer expert on cars and automobile repairs. She also writes in Lifehack and recently started blogging as a hobby. She loves dogs and is currently a hooman-mommy to 7 Dobermans. You can find more of here works at my2cents.today.