Distracted driving is a growing problem among all age groups. Statistics show that driving while distracted now accounts for approximately one-fourth of all motor vehicle crash fatalities. At any given moment during daylight hours, 660,000 motorists are texting while driving or doing something else with their electronic devices while behind the wheel. Distracted driving is an even greater problem among teenagers than the public at large.
According to a survey by AAA, more than half of all teens reported that they used a cell phone while driving, and one out of four admitted that they have sent a text message while driving during the past 30 days. This has resulted in higher instances of distracted driving-related accidents among this age group. Consider these statistics:
- Driver distraction is responsible for 58% of all teen crashes;
- Those ages 16 to 19 are three times more likely to be involved in a fatal crash than any other age group.
While all motorists must deal with distractions on the roadways, teenagers are the most inexperienced group of drivers, which makes them more susceptible to the hazards posed by distracted driving.
Teen Drivers and the Distractions they Face
Drivers deal with numerous distractions on a daily basis. These can be separated into three general categories:
- Manual: A manual distraction is something that causes the driver to take one or both hands off of the wheel. Examples may include tuning the radio, adjusting the GPS, reaching for food or drink, digging for change in your purse or pocket, dialing a phone number on your cell phone, and holding the phone up to your ear to talk.
- Visual: A visual distraction is one that causes drivers to temporarily take their eyes off of the road. Drivers can be distracted visually by their GPS, signs and billboards, passengers, and many others. When a driver takes his/her eyes off the road for too long, it can result in deadly consequences.
- Cognitive: This type of distraction is one that causes a driver to take their mental focus off of the road. Drivers can be mentally distracted by talking on the phone or to other passengers, listening to the radio, or just letting their mind wander.
The increased use of electronic devices on the road has created a whole new level of danger for teen drivers and motorists in other age groups as well. While distractions have always existed on the road, those that involved using an electronic device are especially hazardous. The reason is that sending a text, responding to an email, or doing something similar distracts you manually, visually, and cognitively. This means your full attention is taken away from the road while you are sending an electronic message.
Alabama Distracted Driving Laws
The state of Alabama has been relatively slow to adopt laws that can effectively deter teens and other motorists from distracted driving. While there are laws against distracted driving, they only impose a $25 fine for a first offense, $50 for a second offense, and $75 for a third offense. It is widely believed that texting while driving is more dangerous than driving drunk, but if that is the case, the penalties should be far more reflective of the hazards this type of behavior poses.
Tips for Helping your Teen Avoid Distracted Driving
Parents can play an essential role in helping teens stay safer on the road. Here are some ways to accomplish this:
- Explain to your teen the dangers of falling prey to distractions on the road. Talk to them not only about texting while driving, but other distractions such as eating, drinking, personal grooming, horseplay with passengers, watching videos, and similar hazards.
- Prohibit your teen from having other teen passengers while driving. Other teens can be a major source of distraction for a new driver. This is why Alabama law prohibits drivers under age 17 from having more than one passenger in the vehicle (other than a parent or guardian).
- Set a good example for your teen. Many teens pick up bad habits by watching what their parents do. You can change that by being a good example and not succumbing to driving distractions yourself.
- Encourage your teen to sign the AAA Smart Parent-Teen Driving Agreement. This agreement provides some good ground rules for teens to follow when they first get behind the wheel.
What to Do if you are Injured in a Distracted Driving Accident
With distracted driving nearly reaching epidemic proportions, there is always a chance of being injured due to the negligent or reckless actions of a driver who was not paying proper attention to the road. When this occurs, it is important to speak with an experienced personal injury attorney, so you understand your rights and options.
At Burge and Burge, we have many years of experience representing victims injured in all types of motor vehicle accidents. We have in-depth knowledge of Alabama personal injury laws, and we put our experience to work to ensure that those responsible for injuries sustained are held fully accountable.
For a free consultation with one of our skilled attorneys, call us today at 205-251-9000, or you may send a secure and confidential message through our online contact form.