Motorists have a legal responsibility to pay attention
With the rise of smartphones and in-vehicle technologies, distracted driving is likewise on the rise in North Carolina and nationally. According to NCDOT, nearly one in five car accidents in the state involves a driver who was distracted.
It only takes a moment of inattention for a careless driver to cause a crash that permanently changes someone's life. As advocates for injured people, we've seen this firsthand over and over again. That's why we're proud to participate in Distracted Driving Awareness Month and do our part to stop distracted driving accidents in North Carolina.
Breaking down the types of distractions behind the wheel
Broadly defined, distracted driving is anything that takes a motorist's attention off the road and off the task of operating their vehicle safely. There are many types of distracted driving, including talking to passengers, eating and drinking, adjusting the radio, using an electronic device, or simply being lost in thought. However, they all fall into three categories:
- Visual distraction: anything that takes your eyes off the road.
- Manual distraction: anything that takes your hands off the wheel.
- Cognitive (mental) distraction: anything that takes your mind off the task of driving.
A single distraction can fall into more than one category. Texting while driving is particularly dangerous because it's "all of the above." A texting driver has at least one hand off the wheel and holding their phone and their eyes on their phone's screen, and the mental task of carrying on a conversation by text is highly distracting. Indeed, the mental distraction lingers even after the driver puts their phone down and looks out at the road again.
North Carolina's distracted driving laws
Certain types of distracted driving are explicitly illegal in North Carolina. Texting while driving is illegal for all motorists, and handheld cellphone use is illegal for drivers under age 18 (with exceptions for emergencies and talking to parents or guardians). Unfortunately, efforts to pass a statewide handheld ban for all motorists have stalled, and the North Carolina Supreme Court has ruled that cities and towns cannot pass local handheld bans.
Other types of distracted driving, such as adjusting the radio or eating and drinking, are not illegal as such. However, every motorist has a general responsibility to drive defensively, pay attention, and put safety first. A driver who engages in distracting behavior behind the wheel and causes a crash can be held accountable through the civil justice system.
Contact a car accident attorney if you've been hit by a distracted driver
Ultimately, ending distracted driving comes down to individual decisions made by motorists, and our job is to fight for accountability for dangerous decisions. If you've been hit by a distracted driver anywhere in North Carolina, we can fight for the full compensation you deserve by law. Contact us today to schedule your free consultation with an experienced car accident attorney.