Distracted driving is a pervasive issue on our roads, with far-reaching consequences for pedestrian safety. When we talk about distracted driving, we're referring to any activity that diverts a driver's attention from the task of operating a vehicle. This can encompass many actions, from texting and using smartphones to eating or daydreaming. The critical issue is that when drivers are distracted, their awareness of the road and their surroundings diminishes significantly. This poses a grave risk to everyone sharing the road.
In particular, pedestrians are vulnerable to the hazards posed by distracted drivers. Whether crossing the street or merely walking along the edge of a sidewalk, they are exposed to potential harm if a driver isn't fully attentive. Distracted driving compromises a driver's ability to react swiftly and effectively to unexpected situations, making pedestrians susceptible to accidents and injuries.
Distracted driving is a form of negligence. In legal terms, negligence means failing to exercise the level of care and attention that a reasonably prudent person would under similar circumstances. This means that individuals who engage in distracted driving can and should be held accountable for any damages they cause to others, including pedestrians.
For victims of distracted driver accidents, seeking legal recourse is pivotal. Injured pedestrians can pursue compensation by filing a claim or lawsuit to address the various expenses and losses resulting from the accident. This financial recovery can encompass medical bills, lost wages due to injuries, pain and suffering, and other accident-related costs.
What Constitutes Distracted Driving?
Distracted driving is a three-fold problem involving the mind, eyes, and hands. When drivers are distracted, they take their mind off driving, their eyes off the road, and/or their hands off the steering wheel. Any level of distraction can have dire consequences on the road.
To put this into perspective, consider that at 55 miles per hour, a driver can cover an entire football field in just a few seconds, during which they might not be aware of what's happening on the road or sidewalk. This staggering fact highlights the danger posed by distracted driving.
The prevalence of distracted driving is a cause for concern. In 2020, according to data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 3,142 lives were lost in accidents attributed to distracted driving.
Distracted driving can take various forms, with some of the most common distractions being:
- Texting: Typing or reading text messages while driving is a well-known and highly dangerous distraction. It demands visual, cognitive, and manual attention, making it one of the riskiest behaviors on the road.
- Using a smartphone: Beyond texting, using a smartphone for activities like browsing the internet, making calls, or using apps diverts attention from driving. The allure of digital devices can be strong, but the consequences can be severe.
- Eating and drinking: Consuming food or beverages while driving may seem innocuous, but it requires manual and visual attention that should be focused on the road ahead.
- Adjusting entertainment systems: Tweaking the radio, CD player, or infotainment system can divert a driver's eyes and hands from driving.
- Talking to passengers: Engaging in lively conversations with passengers can be enjoyable, but it can also take a driver's focus away from the road.
- Daydreaming: While not as tangible as the previous distractions, daydreaming or being lost in thought is a prevalent form of distracted driving. It leads to a lack of cognitive attention on the road.
Pedestrian Safety Hazards
Pedestrians, unlike motorists, lack the protective barrier of a vehicle surrounding them. This fundamental difference makes pedestrians vulnerable when sharing the road with distracted drivers. In essence, pedestrians are not shielded by anything when they're out and about, whether crossing the street, walking along the sidewalk, or navigating parking lots. This vulnerability becomes glaringly apparent when considering the consequences of being struck by a vehicle, even when that vehicle is not traveling at high speeds.
Pedestrian injuries resulting from encounters with distracted drivers can range from serious to catastrophic and, tragically, even fatal. The impact of a collision between a distracted driver and a pedestrian is amplified due to the lack of protection afforded to pedestrians. It's a sobering fact that even at relatively low speeds, such as 16 miles per hour, pedestrians are at risk of suffering severe injuries. A study by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety underscores this grim reality.
Numerous scenarios expose pedestrians to heightened risk due to distracted driving.
Some of these scenarios include:
- Intersection crossings
- School zones
- Parking lots
Legal Options for Victims
Drivers have a fundamental legal responsibility on the road. Their primary duty is to operate their vehicles in a manner that does not endanger the safety of others, including pedestrians. When a driver breaches this duty by engaging in distracted driving or other dangerous behaviors, they are, in essence, committing an act of negligence. In legal terms, negligence refers to the failure to exercise the level of care and attention that a reasonably prudent person would under similar circumstances.
The critical point is that when a driver's negligence leads to harm or injury to a pedestrian, the driver can be held liable for the damages resulting from their actions. This liability extends to compensating the injured party for the losses incurred as a direct consequence of the accident.
Potential Legal Actions
Victims of accidents caused by distracted drivers have a couple of legal avenues available to seek compensation for their injuries and losses.
These options include:
- Filing an accident claim: Victims can often initiate the process by filing a claim with the distracted driver's insurance provider. This claim outlines the accident details, the extent of injuries and damages, and the compensation sought. Following this, negotiations between the victim and the insurance company may occur to arrive at a fair settlement.
- Taking the case to court: Victims can take their case to court if negotiations do not yield a satisfactory settlement or if liability is contested. They can present their arguments and evidence in a courtroom before a judge or jury. The trier of fact, whether the judge or the jury, would then determine the verdict (whether the defendant is liable) and the amount of the award owed to the victim.
Working with an Attorney
Hiring a personal injury attorney is pivotal for individuals who have been victims of accidents caused by distracted drivers. They possess the legal know-how to build a compelling case, negotiate with insurance companies, and, if necessary, represent the victim in court. Victims can level the playing field and pursue fair compensation for their injuries and losses by having a lawyer.
If you or someone you know has been a victim of an accident caused by distracted driving in Columbus, schedule a consultation with Rourke and Blumenthal LLC by calling us at (614) 321-3212.