April was National Distracted Driving Awareness Month. Distracted driving is a serious problem nationwide, including in Delaware. From 2009 through 2012, distracted driving caused nearly 25,000 auto accidents. The table below shows the number of auto accidents attributed to distracted driving (distraction, inattention and fatigue).
|Year||Number of Auto Accidents|
Data sources: DelDOT Fact Books (2009-2013) *2014 data not yet available.
Given the steady number of distracted driving auto accidents in Delaware, distracted driving is an important topic. While of course, every driver needs to refrain from engaging in distracted driving behaviors, young, inexperienced drivers are particularly at risk.
What is Distracted Driving?
Cell phone use when driving is probably the most commonly known form of distracted driving. That includes texting, talking, emailing, etc. When most people think of distracted driving, they naturally think of using a cell phone when driving. However, distracted driving is any behavior that takes a driver’s eyes or attention off of the road. Other forms of distracted driving include eating, drinking, and changing the radio.
It’s important to note that recent research shows that merely carrying on a conversation while driving is mentally distracting. Accordingly, drivers are more prone to making errors or failing to react appropriately. For instance, a driver talking to a passenger fails to notice that the traffic signal ahead has turned red and slams into a car or worse, strikes a pedestrian in a crosswalk. This is an especially common scenario for young drivers.
Legal Consequences of Cell Phone Use When Driving in Delaware
Fines for Traffic Violations
Under Delaware law, it is illegal to hold a cell phone in your hand to talk, text, etc., when driving. Drivers who violate this law may be fined $50; subsequent offenses may result in fines of up to $200.
Drivers who cause major injuries or fatalities due to cell phone use when driving may also face serious criminal charges. For instance, a driver is speeding through a school zone in Delaware and uses his cell phone to make a call. He hits a pedestrian, causing catastrophic injuries. Here, the driver could face criminal charges such as vehicular assault or vehicular manslaughter if the pedestrian was killed.
Civil Action (Getting Sued in a Car Accident Lawsuit)
In addition to a traffic ticket or criminal case, a driver who causes an auto accident due to cell phone use may also face a civil action, i.e., a car accident lawsuit. An injured driver, passenger or pedestrian can bring a lawsuit against an at-fault driver and obtain financial recovery for medical bills and lost wages which exceed PIP. Read more about PIP claims in DE auto accidents. In addition, claims may be made for other out of pocket expenses and pain and suffering.
Distracted driving is a serious problem in Delaware. Whether it’s using a cell phone to text or eating/drinking in the car, drivers must stay alert and focus their eyes on the road. The risk of an auto accident is just too great.
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