Why Distracted Driving Kills | Shapiro, Washburn & Sharp

Allow me to go full spoiler right from the jump.


Distracted driving kills because it takes your eyes off the road ahead, disengages your brain from the complicated task of controlling a car or truck, and, often, causes you to remove your hands from the steering wheel.

Studies show that a distraction of as short as three seconds sets the stage for a crash. Shooting video of real-life drivers as they drove around revealed that the average length of a distraction is longer than 20 seconds. A car traveling at 75 mph, which is the speed limit for passenger vehicles on most interstates through Virginia, covers 2,200 feet, or close to half a mile.

If you would not drive any distance with your eyes closed, you should not allow yourself to become distracted behind the wheel. My Virginia personal injury and wrongful death law firm colleagues and I spread this lifesaving message through our involvement with groups like EndDD, the campaign to end distracted driving. Sadly, we regularly advise and represent victims of drivers who ignored all the warnings about the dangers of giving into distractions.




What Happens When a Driver Becomes Distracted

Distractions come in many forms. No one could miss all the public service announcements, government proclamations and state laws concerning texting and driving. Hands-free calls have been urged and facilitated by technologies such as Bluetooth for more than a decade. But these are not the only the risky behaviors in which drivers engage.

Passengers represent distractions to the extent that states such as North Carolina keep count of wrecks caused when “driver [was] distracted by other inside vehicle.” Eating and drinking both block a driver’s view and require, at best, one-handed steering. Unsecured pets, changing the radio station, adjusting heat or air conditioning settings, and retrieving dropped objects also rank as leading causes of distracted driving crashes.

Regardless of why people become distracted behind the wheel, the results are often tragic, Here is what the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health learned after discovering that “research suggests that distraction is present during 52 percent of normal driving”:

In 2017 6 percent of all motor vehicle crashes in the United States involved a distracted driver. [As a result,] 3,166 people died in crashes involving a distracted driver [and] 599 nonoccupants (e.g., pedestrians and cyclists) died in a crash that involved a distracted driver.

Avoiding consequences like those is as simple as staying focused and keeping your hands on the wheel. Turning off or silencing your phone may be necessary. Parents may want to limit the number of friends their children drive around. And ensuring you never take the wheel while drunk or in danger of falling asleep is a must. A driver who resists distractions does not cause a distracted driving crash.