Were you hit by a distracted driver in Washington, DC? Contact a distracted driving accident lawyer at Regan Zambri Long for a free case review.
Cell phone technology has continued to advance, revolutionizing the way we live our lives. But it has also led to a dramatic increase in distracted driving. In fact, it is estimated that distracted driving accounts for over 15% of all car crashes. And over 400,000 Americans are injured in accidents involving distracted driving each year.
Many states have enacted laws meant to curb distracted driving. These laws can vary greatly from one state to the next, leading to confusion over what it is legal to do behind the wheel. Some states have even gone as far as to ban texting and talking on the phone while driving (unless doing so hands-free) in an effort to reduce the incidence of distracted driving. However, many experts still consider distracted driving to be one of the biggest problems on America’s highways.
Unfortunately, victims of crashes involving distracted drivers in Washington D.C. can be left with severe injuries, mounting medical bills, and even an inability to work. This makes it critical that you contact an attorney if you or a loved one has been injured in a car accident involving a distracted driver.
Contact a distracted driving accident lawyer to protect your rights today
At Regan Zambri Long, we know how difficult and confusing the time immediately following a severe car accident can be. Our car crash and distracted driving accident lawyers will fight to hold the negligent driver accountable and get you the compensation you are owed. Contact us today for a free consultation. There is no fee unless we win your case.
Defining Distracted Driving in D.C.
People usually think of distracted driving as texting or using a phone while driving. This is one of the main causes of distracted driving accidents, but distraction can take many forms. In fact, the CDC broadly defines distracted driving as driving while doing another activity. Taking your attention away from the road and increasing your chances of a motor vehicle crash. Anything that takes your attention away from driving can be considered a distraction. These distractions are usually classified as one of three main types:
- Visual: Anything that requires you to take your eyes off of the road.
- Manual: An activity that requires you to take your hand off of the wheel.
- Cognitive: Anything that takes your mind off of the act of driving.
Many forms of distraction, such as texting or sending an email while driving, can fit into all these categories. A significant percentage of distracted driving accidents involve cell phone use. However, there are various distractions that can lead to accidents including:
- Eating, drinking, or smoking while driving
- Attempting to adjust controls in the vehicle (such as for the radio or climate control.)
- Using any other device while driving (such as a tablet, GPS device, etc.)
- Talking to other passengers
- Personal grooming
- Trying to pick up an object on the floor
- General absent-mindedness.
Many drivers engage in these actions while driving on a regular basis and would consider them harmless. Unfortunately, even minor things like adjusting your seat or reaching for a phone charger while driving can take your attention away from the road long enough to be considered distracted driving. This could have disastrous consequences.
The Dangers of Distracted Driving in Washington D.C.
Reaching for something on the floor of your car or sending a quick text while driving may seem innocent enough. However, even minor distractions can lead to a major accident. In fact, taking your eyes off of the road for even a second can cause an accident if someone cuts in front of you, or comes to a sudden stop when you are not looking.
Sending texts while is particularly dangerous, as the average text takes 5 seconds to send. If you are driving on the highway at 55mph, sending a text would then be equivalent to driving the entire length of a football field with your eyes closed. Driving safely requires all of your attention. Anything you do that acts as a distraction while driving could have tragic consequences. In fact, an average of 3,000 people per year are killed as a result of accidents caused by distracted driving.
How Cell Phones Affect Reaction Time
Not only does using your phone pose a threat, but even hands-free distractions can reduce your reaction time while driving. In a study conducted by AAA’s Foundation for Traffic Safety, Dr. David Strayer and colleagues discovered that even hands-free talking and texting is not risk-free, as it poses a mental distraction. In their study, the researchers found that drivers who were mentally distracted by a phone call, dictating texts, or even listening to the radio needed 18% more time to respond to brake lights than cars ahead of them. According to Strayer, even when used hands-free, cell phone use affects reaction time significantly enough for a 20-year-old driver to suffer from the same delayed reaction time as a 70-year-old-driver.
Ultimately, anything that takes your eyes and/or attention away from the road even for a matter of seconds can affect your ability to safely operate a motor vehicle. All it takes is a minor distraction for you to cause an accident that could result in severe injuries or even death.
Common Injuries Caused by Distracted Driving
Every accident is unique and can cause different types of injuries and damages. Accidents involving distracted driving in Washington D.C. can be particularly devastating. Taking your eyes off of the road for even a few seconds can cause you to veer into another lane, causing you to sideswipe another vehicle or hit another vehicle head-on at full speed. You may even unknowingly fail to stop at a stoplight, resulting in a devastating t-bone accident. While distracted driving accidents carry a higher risk of fatalities, non-fatal injuries are common and include:
- Broken bones
- Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI)
- Internal bleeding
- Spinal cord injuries
- Nerve damage
Non-fatal distracted driving accidents can result in devastating injuries for victims. Highlighting the importance of giving your full attention to the road at all times when behind the wheel. Unfortunately, distracted driving accidents, and in particular, those involving cell phones, have become such a common occurrence that many states have had to implement laws restricting the use of mobile devices in vehicles in the hopes of suppressing this problem.
Washington D.C. Distracted Driving Laws
Distracted driving accidents involving the use of electronic devices have grown increasingly common. More states have begun to implement laws that ban the use of handheld devices behind the wheel. Currently, 48 states, D.C., Puerto Rico, Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands, and the U.S. Virgin Islands ban texting for all drivers. Additionally, 24 states, D.C., Puerto Rico, Guam, and the U.S. Virgin Islands prohibit all drivers from using handheld devices and cell phones while driving. All of these handheld cell phone bans are considered primary enforcement laws. Meaning that an officer may pull over and cite a driver for using a handheld cell phone without any other traffic violation/offense taking place.
Overall, Washington D.C. arguably has some of the strictest distracting driving laws in the country. D.C. was amongst the first places in the country to implement restrictions on the use of mobile devices inside a car with the passing of the Distracted Driving Safety Act of 2004. This banned the use of handheld cell phones and other electronic devices while driving. The law prohibits drivers from using mobile phones and other electronic devices (including but not limited to: computers, video games, pagers, and music players while actively driving a motor vehicle).
Exceptions to the Law
However, exceptions to this law do exist for drivers using devices equipped with, or connected to, hands-free technology. If you are able to use your device while keeping both hands on the wheel, you are not in violation of this law. Exceptions also exist that allow drivers to use their phones to initiate or terminate a hands-free phone call. Additionally, drivers are always free to use their cell phones in an emergency situation. Such as if they need to call 911 or another emergency service. (It is important to note that this law only applies to moving vehicles. Drivers in parked cars and vehicles pulled over on the side of the road, are free to use handheld devices.)
Restrictions for School Bus Drivers and Drivers with Learner’s Permits
Under the Distracted Driving Safety Act of 2004, there are additional restrictions placed on school bus drivers and drivers with learner’s permits. These drivers are entirely banned from texting and talking on a phone while a vehicle is in motion regardless of whether or not they use hands-free technology. (For bus drivers, this does not apply if they are driving their personal vehicle. Hands-free technology would be allowed in this situation.) The only exception for student drivers and bus drivers is in the event of an emergency. These drivers can use their cell phones to place an emergency call if necessary.
Other Forms of Distracted Driving
The District of Columbia also has further restrictions on distracted driving meant to protect drivers. Washington D.C. considers distracted driving to be inattentive driving while operating a motor vehicle that results in the unsafe operation of the vehicle. Distracted driving, as defined by D.C. law, can be the result of reading, writing, performing personal grooming, using electronic devices, or engaging in any other activities that result in distraction while driving. Even if a driver is not using a cell phone, other forms of distracted driving could result in drivers receiving a distracted driving citation.
If Washington D.C. drivers are caught in violation of the Distracted Driving Safety Act, they can be subjected to a fine of $100. However, first-time offenders who are caught using their phones while driving can have the fine suspended by providing proof of having obtained a hands-free device before the fine was imposed. Fortunately, drivers will not have points applied to their license for receiving a distracted driving ticket, and these tickets can be contested.
If commercial drivers are caught violating the distracted driving law two or more times, these drivers may have their credentials disqualified. A CDL will be disqualified for 60 days for a second offense that occurs within three years of a first offense. This disqualification increases to 120 days for a third conviction within three years of the second offense. Additionally, employers can be subjected to heavy fines if one of their drivers is convicted of distracted driving.
The Importance of Consulting an Experienced Washington D.C. Personal Injury Attorney
Similar to drunk driving, distracted driving is a willful and negligent act that can put other people’s lives at risk. If you or a loved one was injured in a car accident due to the negligence of a distracted driver, you may be entitled to compensation. Distracted driving accidents can cause serious consequences for victims. Including high medical bills, lost wages, property damage, as well as pain and suffering, which can have long-lasting ramifications. The fact is that you should not have to suffer because someone else chose to drive distracted.
It is imperative that you contact an experienced personal injury attorney who can help you during this difficult time. At Regan Zambri Long, we know how difficult and confusing the time following a serious accident can be. This is why we strive to be there for, and support, each of our clients on their road to recovery. We can remove a great burden from your shoulders by doing the hard work to get you the compensation you deserve. This way, you are free to focus on healing from your injuries.
Contact us to find out more about how a distracted driving accident lawyer can help you. Learn more about how the car accident attorneys at Regan Zambri Long can give you the best chances of securing proper compensation for your injuries following a distracted driving accident in Washington D.C.