In recent years, there has been a lot of attention paid to the issue of distracted driving. News reports and other sources warn that drivers are looking at their smartphones instead of at the road ahead of them, causing accidents that injure themselves and others.
Indeed, texting while driving and other smartphone use is a serious safety hazard, but the danger of distracted driving was around before the invention of cellphones, and there are still many sources of distraction.
Michigan State Police statistics
According to exhaustive statistics compiled by the Michigan State Police, there were well over 500,000 motor vehicle accidents related to distracted driving reported in the state in 2018, the most recent year for which full statistics are available. For most of these, the cause of distraction wasn’t know. Phone use and texting accounted for 2,050 crashes.
The use of other electronic devices accounted for another 2,165 accidents. For more than 1,000 accidents, the cause of distraction was listed as a passenger inside the driver’s vehicle. There were 6,536 crashes attributed to other activity inside the vehicle, and another 6,444 where the distraction was listed as activity outside the vehicle.
Duty and liability
Of course, knowing the cause of the driver’s distraction doesn’t do you much good if you were injured when they took their eyes off the road and crashed into your car. If you have been injured by a distracted driver, you have medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering and other damages. From a legal perspective, what matters to you is whether the driver acted negligently.
Negligence is a legal theory that stems from the idea that we all owe certain duties to others around us to minimize the risks of harming them in an accident. If a driver breaches their duty to others by taking their eyes off the road, and causes an accident because of that breach, the driver has acted negligently and can be found liable for the injured party’s damages.
Certain factors can make it easier to prove that a driver acted negligently. For instance, if the driver admits they were looking at their cellphone instead of at the road, then the injured party has strong evidence that the driver breached their duty of reasonable care to others. The next step is to prove that this breach is what caused the accident.