Distracted Driving in Alabama

Despite the fact that distracted driving was responsible for 3,179 deaths in 2014 and 413,000 injuries, a bill which would have expanded Alabama’s law against texting while driving to include other forms of distractions was rejected by the Alabama House of Representatives. The bill would have made it illegal to read, write, engage in personal grooming, interact with pets or unsecured cargo, use a cellphone or engage in any activity which diverts the driver’s attention from the task of driving.

In 2011, Alabama lawmakers approved a bill prohibiting texting while driving for all drivers, and a ban on cell phone use of any type for novice drivers (16 or 17-year old drivers who have had their intermediate license for less than six months). This law allows any drivers—other than novice drivers—to use a cell phone for talking, but not texting while driving. Other forms of distracted driving include:

  • Eating;
  • Conversing with passengers;
  • Turning around to see what the children are doing;
  • Changing radio stations, and
  • Fiddling with a GPS device.

Other significant facts associated with distracted driving include the following:

  • A full ten percent of drivers between the ages of 15 and 19, who are involved in a fatal automobile collision were reportedly distracted when they collided with another car, and, in fact, those between the ages of 15 and 19 had the highest number of drivers who were engaging in a distracting behavior at the time of an auto collision which resulted in death or injury.
  • Despite the fact that both adults and teens are well-aware of the dangers of texting while driving, the percentage of drivers visibly seen sending or reading a text message increased from 1.7 percent in 2013 to 2.2 percent in 2014.
  • Although teens are the biggest offenders, adults are guilty of texting while driving as well.
  • At any given time, there are as many as 660,000 drivers using a cell phone for talking or texting while driving.
  • A full one-third of all drivers, both teens and adults admit they sometimes text while driving, while 75 percent say they have seen others do it. (Keep in mind, this is the number of drivers who admit to texting while driving—the number is likely higher).
  • When sending or reading a text, the driver’s eyes are away from the road for about five seconds. While this may not sound like a long time, imagine driving the length of a football field at 55 mph, while blindfolded, and you can see how many things could happen during that length of time.

Those who spend a considerable amount of time behind the wheel have likely witnessed other drivers engaging in all sorts of distractions. Visual-manual distractions—such as texting and driving, fiddling with the radio, or eating—can triple the risk of an accident, yet drivers continue to engage in such distractions.

Children in the Car—A Major Distraction?

One of the driving distractions nobody really wants to talk about are children in the vehicle. An Australian study found that having children in the vehicle can be twelve times more distracting to the driver, than talking on a cell phone while behind the wheel. This study found that the average parent takes his or her eyes off the road for a shocking three minutes and 22 seconds during a 16-minute auto trip when there are children in the vehicle.

The study found that parents are constantly breaking up squabbles between the children and calming fussy babies while driving—and that babies are a whopping eight times more distracting to drivers than adult passengers. Parents have been known to pass out juice boxes and snacks, pick up toys and bottles from the floor of the vehicle, and even attempt to put on a DVD for the children while driving, plus most parents have their rearview mirror adjusted to watch the children rather than the traffic behind them. Interestingly, fathers are worse offenders than mothers, when it comes to allowing the children to distract them while driving.

The in-car chaos which children and babies tend to bring to the inside of a vehicle can put even the most safety-conscious family at risk. In addition to the distractions of children, having unsecured pets in the vehicle can also lead to an accident, particularly if that pet is in and out of your lap, or jumping from seat to seat. In short, children and pets must always be secured in the vehicle, and children must be taught early on that certain behaviors are simply not allowed inside the car.

Baby Boomers Just as Bad as Teens for Distracted Driving?

While most of the cautions related to driving are aimed at teen drivers—and it is true that teens send and receive five times more texts than the average adult—those teens might actually be safer while doing so than a driver from the baby boomer generation. To be clear, no driver, no matter his or her age, should engage in texting while behind the wheel, however a study from Wayne State University concluded millennials who text and drive are at least somewhat less dangerous than baby boomers who text and drive.

A simulator was used in the study, with researchers measuring how many times the driver veered out of their lane while texting. About half of the millennial texters—highly skilled texters, in other words—veered out of the lane while texting, while 80 percent of those between the ages of 49 and 59 did so. The takeaway from this study is that even older, experienced drivers may not be as skilled at phone distractions and the actual task of texting, as the younger crowd. All in all, it appears the only distraction baby boomers do not engage in, that teen drivers do, is changing their clothes while driving.

Getting the Help You Need from an Alabama Attorney

If you are the victim of a distracted driver and are left with serious injuries, it is important that you speak to an experienced Alabama personal injury attorney. Your life may have been irrevocably changed as a result of a distracted driver, and that is not your fault. You need a skilled advocate in your corner, and an attorney from Martinson & Beason can be that advocate. Our top rated Huntsville car accident attorneys will ensure your rights and your future are protected, while working hard on your behalf for an equitable settlement. Don’t wait—call Martinson & Beason today for a comprehensive evaluation of your Alabama auto accident claim.