Experienced personal injury attorneys know that any new information regarding the causes or prevention of car accidents is relevant to personal injury law; more than half, 52%, of personal injury lawsuits each year in the United States are auto-related, meaning auto accident lawyers spend a lot of time looking at data about car accidents. Any behavior that could put you at fault in an accident is one that could also end up fueling a car accident injury claim or lawsuit (since auto accident injury claims are generally filed with the insurance company of the at-fault driver).
It should come as no surprise to you that driving while distracted is one of the top ways you can end up on the wrong side of a car accident injury claim. About 20% of all auto accidents in the U.S. are caused by distracted drivers. And it should also come as no surprise to you that a major source of that distraction is the use of cell phones. The National Highway Transportation Safety Authority has estimated that about 11% of drivers in the U.S. not only use their cell phones while driving, but use them frequently.
Now, a new study is claiming that the percentage of accidents caused by cell phone use is actually much higher than what is represented by federal data.
More Than a Quarter of Crashes Caused by Cell Phones
A study recently released by the National Safety Council has found that cell phone use is causing more and more accidents, accounting for more than a quarter of all accidents in the country as of 2013. About 21% of crashes in 2013 were related to the use of phones, either handheld or hands-free, and an additional 6% of crashes were caused by texting.
To put that another way, drivers who are talking on phones in the car are four times as likely to be in an accident than drivers who aren’t. The number of phone-related car accidents total up to around 1.5 million for the year studied — around 1.2 million related to calls and at least 341,000 related to texting.
Simple Tips for Self-Enforcing Hands-Free Driving
So what can you do to make sure you don’t contribute to the problem (or end up with a car accident injury claim on your hands)? While it’s technically as simple as putting down the phone and keeping your eyes on the road, a few extra steps may support that goal:
- Use a signal such as #X to quickly communicate that you’re getting behind the wheel and need to put text conversations on pause.
- Keep your cell in your purse or briefcase, rather than in a cupholder or pocket. This will reduce the temptation to check it quickly, while still keeping it close enough that you could get to it in an emergency.
- Talk to your teen drivers in particular about the dangers of texting while driving, and come up with a system to hold each other accountable.
Will this data make you think twice about reaching for your phone in the car? Discuss in the comments.