Distracted Driving—Ask the Answer Man

According to a study by the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute, drivers who text are 23 times more likely to get into a serious accident than non-distracted drivers. The study also showed that a driver traveling at 55 miles per hour who looks at a cell phone for five seconds will travel the length of a football field without looking at the road.

Texting and driving are illegal in Georgia. Clayton County auto accident attorney Shane Smith can help if you are in an accident where the other driver was texting while driving.

  • What are the characteristics of distracted driving?

Drivers may be distracted in a number of ways that prevent them from dedicating their attention to driving safely. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) distinguishes distracted driving in three ways:

  1. Visual distractions—A driver takes his eyes off the road and all surroundings including surrounding traffic, pedestrians, road hazards, and road signs (including speed limit signs or digital warning signs). Examples include texting, reading (including incoming texts, GPS maps, or digital reading devices such as the Kindle or Nook), or personal grooming (including looking in a mirror to apply makeup or to check your hair).
  1. Manual distractions—A driver takes his hands off the steering wheel. Examples include typing a text message, adjusting the stereo's volume or station, adjusting the air conditioning or vent angles, lighting a cigarette, eating or drinking, putting on makeup, or brushing your hair.
  1. Cognitive distractions—A driver's mental focus is diverted from driving. Examples include texting (either concentrating on a message just sent or on thinking of a reply), talking on a cell phone, or to a passenger.

Texting combines all three distraction types and therefore is especially dangerous.

  • What are examples of distracted driving?

Distracted driving is any activity that might divert a driver's attention away from driving. These types of distractions include the following actions while driving:

  • Typing/sending or reading text messages
  • Talking on a cell phone or smartphone
  • Uploading information on a website
  • Eating or drinking
  • Talking to passengers
  • Smoking
  • Grooming or applying makeup
  • Reading a newspaper or electronic reading device
  • Adjusting a stereo, CD player, or MP3 player/having the volume too loud to hear surrounding sounds
  • Using maps or a navigation system (GPS)
  • Watching a video
  • Reaching into the glove compartment
  • Why is talking with a passenger considered distracted driving?

Some studies have shown that talking with a passenger is as distracting as talking on a hands-free phone or texting while driving. The major difference cited in one study is that a passenger provides another set of eyes and can alert a distracted driver to potential hazards. Additionally, a passenger can see hazards that might warrant a pause in a conversation unlike someone on the other end of a phone conversation.

Studies have also shown the increased likelihood of auto accidents when young drivers have one or more young passengers. Teens in Georgia may not carry any passengers for the first six months after obtaining their license, no more than one passenger under the age of 21 for the second six months, and no more than three passengers until the driver reaches 18 years old.

  • Will a hands-free device prevent the characteristics of distracted driving prevalent in cell phones?

Hands-free devices are permissible in some states that have prohibited cell phone use while driving.  However, the CDC research indicates that hands-free devices are still distracting to a driver's concentration. While they may be legal in some states hands-free devices do not reduce the risk of having a distracted driving accident.

According to a government website, having a hands-free phone conversation causes drivers to miss the important visual and audio cues that would ordinarily help avoid an accident.

If you or someone you know has been hurt by a distracted driver, contact the Clayton County auto accident lawyers at Shane Smith Law.

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