How Do You Recognize a Distracted Driver? (And What Should You Do if You’re Hit by One)?
In the age of smartphones, distracted driving is becoming a major problem on Georgia’s roads. According to the Georgia Department of Transportation, there were 331,796 car crashes in our state in 2020, and distracted driving was either confirmed or suspected to be a factor in 163,040 of them—almost half.
Our state has strengthened its distracted driving laws in recent years, including by passing the Hands-Free Georgia Act in 2018. However, it remains a pressing problem, and distracted drivers are responsible for many serious injuries (and even fatalities) in our state each year.
Unfortunately, even though distracted driving is extremely common, it’s often difficult to prove. If you’ve been injured in an auto accident and you believe a distracted driver was at fault, it’s important to seek representation from an experienced car accident attorney as soon as possible.
In this blog, we’ll take a closer look at what distracted driving is, how to tell if another driver may be distracted, and what you can do if you are injured in an accident with a distracted driver.
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What Is Distracted Driving?
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), distracted driving is “any activity that could divert a person’s attention away from the primary task of driving.”
Georgia recognizes three categories of distracted driving:
- Visual distractions: you’re not looking where you’re going.
- Manual distractions: you’re doing something with your hands other than operating the motor vehicle.
- Cognitive distractions: your brain is elsewhere, and you aren’t giving driving your full attention.
In other words, any behavior that forces your eyes off the road, hands off the wheel, or mind off driving—even for just a second or two—can be considered distracted driving.
Some common examples include:
- Using a cell phone in any way
- Eating and drinking
- Personal grooming
- Talking to passengers
- Using a navigation system
- Adjusting music (radio, CD player, or streaming music app)
You might not think something like adjusting the radio could be that dangerous, but consider this: at 45 miles per hour, your vehicle travels 66 feet in a single second. At 70 miles per hour, you can cover the length of entire football field in less than 3 seconds.
RELATED BLOG POST: How To Avoid Distracted Driving
The Hands-Free Georgia Act and How it Applies
In 2018, Georgia passed the Hands-Free Georgia Act, which makes it illegal for Georgia drivers to talk on the phone while driving while holding their phone (or having it touch any part of their body).
Furthermore, all emailing, texting (unless using speech-to-text), internet use, and video watching is illegal even with a hands-free setup. And if you need to open or set up an app to begin a music streaming service, you must do this before getting on the road. Violators are subject to fines and points on their license.
While these laws help reduce the risk of car accidents caused by distracted drivers, it’s important to understand that using hands-free devices does not necessarily protect you from a distracting driving negligence claim. If talking on the phone is a cognitive distraction and you lose focus on your driving and cause an accident, you may be held liable.
Signs That Another Driver May Be Distracted
Knowing common signs to look for to spot a distracted driver can help you avoid a wreck or possibly minimize the severity of an accident. Some of the most common include:
- Inability to maintain lane position
- Driving between lanes or sudden swerving for no apparent reason
- Not keeping a relatively constant speed (slowing down or speeding up frequently)
- Sudden braking in reaction to normal traffic stops
- Running a red light or stop sign
- Following too closely to the vehicle ahead
- Stopping longer than necessary at traffic stops
- Driving much slower or faster than the speed limit or flow of traffic
- Seeing that the driver’s eyes are not on the road ahead (for example, looking down at a phone)
What to Do If You Spot a Distracted Driver
If you see a car that appears to be driven by a distracted driver, drive defensively. Assume that the other driver does not see you and could be a danger to you. Give them a wide berth, and if possible, try to either pull ahead (if it’s safe to do so) or slow down and let them pass.
Do not attempt to engage the other vehicle or to take matters into your own hands. If you cannot find a safe way to avoid the other driver, or their behavior seems especially erratic or dangerous, pull over wherever it is safe to do so, call 911, and report the unsafe driver to the police.
Hit by a Distracted Driver? Contact a Personal Injury Attorney
Every driver owes a duty of care to the others they share the road with. If you’ve been injured by a driver who wasn’t paying attention, you may be entitled to compensation to pay for any medical treatment, lost wages, and other economic or non-economic damages that result. And if you want fair compensation for your injuries, it’s a good idea to hire an experienced personal injury attorney.
Act Quickly to Preserve Valuable Evidence
It isn’t always easy to prove that a driver was distracted—and most at-fault drivers aren’t willing to admit it. Out of those 163,040 estimated distraction-related crashes in Georgia last year, distraction was fully confirmed as a factor in only 3,257. Drivers will even lie about what happened to shield themselves from responsibility. And insurance companies will do anything they can to reduce the amount of damages they have to pay.
That’s why having an experienced lawyer to protect you is so invaluable. If our team acts quickly, we can often preserve mobile phone records and other data that documents the driver’s phone use at the time of the crash.
And while it might not be possible to prove that the at-fault driver was fiddling with their tech gadgets or adjusting the radio at the time of the crash, a thorough crash investigation can help you demonstrate that the other involved driver’s unsafe actions (sudden lane change, speeding, or failing to stop) were responsible for the crash.
Another great resource is witnesses. It’s always advised to get the names and contact information of anyone affected by or witnessing the event. Whether they weren’t involved in the accident at all or were in the car with the other driver, these witnesses can provide insight into possible distracted driving.
If you were hit by a commercial vehicle, such as a semi-truck, note that there may be footage from a dash camera or other recording device. Trucking companies are using these more frequently to increase safety on the road, and in some cases the content may be accessible and useful in your case.
The sooner you contact an attorney for help and legal advice, the greater the chance that critical evidence can be collected and preserved, and the better your odds for fair compensation in the end.
Ready to Talk to a Lawyer Who Has Your Back?
The Brown Firm: Fighting for the Injured and Holding Distracted Drivers Accountable
The Brown Firm is committed to helping make Georgia’s roads safer for all, and making sure those injured in auto accidents receive fair compensation for injuries and damages that weren’t their fault. We have offices conveniently located in Savannah and Atlanta, and we represent injured individuals throughout Georgia and South Carolina. We can help you understand your legal options and fight for the compensation and benefits that you deserve.
To schedule your free consultation, call us anytime at (888) 391-9112 or complete our simple contact form.
Georgia Department of Transportation. GDOT Crash Data Dashboard. Retrieved from http://www.dot.ga.gov/DS/Crash
National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Distracted Driving. Retrieved from https://www.nhtsa.gov/risky-driving/distracted-driving
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Distracted Driving. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/transportationsafety/distracted_driving/
The content provided here is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice on any subject.
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