The COVID-19 pandemic brought changes to the way many people here in Virginia and across the country are able to “meet” and communicate with each other. But this has led to another dangerous problem: driving while Zooming has become an alarming issue, responsible for far too many Virginia car accidents that leave victims suffering from serious personal injuries.
During the height of the pandemic, many people were forced to work from home. There were also millions of people who were unable to visit with family and friends “in-person” because of the steps we had to take to keep everyone safe from the virus. This all led to a new way of communicating – through video conferencing. One of the most popular platforms used for this communication was Zoom. And although there are not stringent restrictions in place like there were a year ago, many companies still have employees working from home. And with periodic outbreaks of new strains of COVID, many people are still using Zoom to visit with loved ones. All of this video conferencing, however, has led to this new type of distracted driving.
Each Virginia personal injury lawyer at our firm knows that every year, the number of distracted driving crashes increases. The countless warnings from safety experts and even new laws banning hand-held devices while driving has done little to convince drivers to keep their focus off their phones and off the roads.
Studies found that when most of the country was shut down and there were much fewer vehicles on the roads, the number of distracted driving accidents actually increased. The findings in one national study were astounding. Researchers found that more than 55 percent of all car accidents in 2020 involved some kind of cell phone use prior to the impact. In almost 20 percent of those collisions, cell phone use occurred five seconds prior to the crash impact.
Zoom Zombies and Car Accidents
The pandemic has caused more and more people to do a good deal of their engagement with others virtually – and often in their vehicles. Unfortunately, many drivers who have participated in national surveys emerged from the pandemic believing they can safely operate their vehicle and their cell phones at the same time. Driving while Zooming has become so prevalent that safety advocates and researchers have come up with a name for drivers who engage in the activity: Zoom zombies. This is because more than half of drivers surveyed in other studies say they have a hard time concentrating after they have been video chatting.
And it is not just younger drivers who are engaging in this dangerous activity. Recently, an Ohio state senator was caught using a Zoom office background while driving during a senate hearing. Viewers say the seatbelt he was wearing and periodic turning of his head was the giveaway. Ironically, earlier that same day, there was a bill introduced in Ohio that would ban video conferencing and other virtual distracted driving activities.
Recognizing Distracted Driving
It is important as drivers that we always drive defensively, keeping in mind that no matter how carefully you drive and obey the rules of the road, many drivers we share the roads with do not. Recognizing the signs that a driver may be engaged in distracted driving activities can help you avoid driving in the same area they are in, keeping yourself safe from a potential crash
Some common signs include a driver who slows down and then speeds up or one that is constantly hitting their brakes. If a driver swerves into other lanes or makes erratic moves, that is also a good indicator they are not focused on the road. And of course, if you are driving at night and see the glow of a cell phone in the vehicle next to you, that’s a warning to get away from that driver as safely as possible to avoid being injured in a car accident.
Tragically, many innocent drivers, passengers, and pedestrians become victims to distracted drivers, sustaining serious injuries, and facing long and painful recoveries. These injuries also leave many victims with astronomical medical bills and loss of income because they are unable to work while they recover. Fortunately, Virginia law allows victims of car accidents to pursue personal injury claims against the at-fault parties.
If you have been injured in a crash caused by a driver who was texting and driving or some other distracted driving behavior, contact a Virginia car accident attorney to find out what legal recourse you may have. Call Shapiro, Washburn & Sharp today to schedule a free consultation and find out how we can help.