It may not be obvious, but the number of car accidents caused by distracted drivers is continuing to rise despite the advent of new hands-free devices and anti-texting laws.
The AAA of West Virginia says that many people in the field suspect the number of distracted driving accidents is being severely underreported. People rarely want to admit to the police or insurance adjusters that they weren’t paying attention at the time of a crash.
From what we’ve seen over the past 70 years practicing law at Recht Law Offices, the AAA is most likely right.
The most recent data available from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reveals that distracted driving was a factor in more than 3,000 deaths nationwide in 2019.
The total represents 10% more fatalities (about 300 people) when compared to 2018.
What is distracted driving?
Distracted driving is anything that takes a driver’s eyes or attention off the road. Typical examples of driving distractions include texting, eating, having pets in the car, using smartphones or cellphones, and self-grooming such as shaving, combing hair, or putting on makeup.
Of all distractions, texting has been identified as one of the riskiest because of how long it takes a person’s eyes, hands, and mind off the road and their surroundings.
For example, if you’re driving 55 mph and look down at your phone for just 5 seconds, you have essentially driven the length of a professional football field – blind.
At Recht Law Offices, we have represented many Northern Panhandle victims of distracted driving accidents.
Here are some pointers on how you can prevent distracted driving.
If you can’t wait to look at your phone while you’re driving, pull over to a safe location, such as a gas station or parking lot.
Let a passenger hold your phone
Have a “designated texter” who can read your texts and respond to them for you, enter directions, read notifications, or answer your calls.
Stash your phone somewhere out of reach
For some drivers, having a phone nearby is just too tempting. If you’re someone who can’t resist the urge to use your phone while driving, put it in your trunk, glove box, or somewhere else you can’t easily access.
If you are a passenger in a vehicle with a distracted driver, speak up and politely ask them to pay attention to the road ahead. While it might feel uncomfortable, it’s better than letting the driver put you and everyone else on the road at risk of a crash.
West Virginia distracted driving laws
West Virginia’s distracted driving laws are more restrictive when compared to other states.
The law states that no one can text, use a cellphone (unless it’s a hands-free device), or use another type of electronic communication device (unless that is hands-free, as well) while operating a motor vehicle.
The rules apply even if the vehicle is temporarily stopped due to traffic or a red light, for example.
The exception to these rules is when you need to make a call in an emergency – it’s okay to make this call while driving if you must.
The penalties for distracted driving are expensive. For a first offense, the fine is $100, the second offense is $200, third and all subsequent fines will be $300 per offense.
Demerit points will be added to a distracted driver’s record on third and subsequent offenses. If a driver gets 12 demerit points within 2 years, the driver may have their license suspended for 30 days. The more points you get, the longer you are likely to lose your license to drive. Points come off your driving record over time if you can avoid making more violations.
In addition to the penalties, there are more serious related charges that often accompany a distracted driving allegation. These may include reckless driving and negligent vehicular homicide.
Keep in mind that the laws about distracted driving can vary from state to state. That’s why if you’ve been injured in a crash with a distracted driver, one of the best ways to learn your legal rights and options is by contacting a car accident lawyer near you.
Let Recht Law Offices fight for you
If you were injured in a crash and a distracted driver is to blame, attorneys Steven M. Recht and Elisa Recht can protect your rights and aggressively advocate for your best interests.
Our law firm has been helping clients in the Northern Panhandle for nearly 70 years. We know West Virginia, Ohio, and Pennsylvania law and understand what it takes to build a strong case that gets results.
Contact us today for a free consultation.