Motorists looking at their cellphone screens instead of concentrating on the road ahead are becoming an alarmingly common sight in New York, and federal accident data suggests that the popularity of modern smartphones has led to a surge in distracted driving deaths. Figures from the National Traffic Highway Safety Administration reveal that accidents involving one or more distracted drivers claimed 3,154 lives and caused more than 400,000 injuries in 2013 alone.
Cellphone use while behind the wheel is particularly dangerous because it distracts drivers in several ways. People are visually distracted when they look away from the road to read text messages or screen incoming phone calls, and they are cognitively distracted when they engage in conversations or compose text messages. Cellphones also cause manual distractions when drivers take their hands off the steering wheel to use their phones.
Road safety experts say that remaining vigilant is the best defense against distracted driving, and they urge drivers who must remain in touch to use only hands free devices. Drivers should also program their navigation systems and check that children and pets are properly restrained before setting out. Eating while driving can also be extremely distracting, and motorists should refrain from using drive-through restaurants whenever possible.
Distracted drivers can face civil liabilities when they cause harm to others, but proving distraction in car accident lawsuits is sometimes difficult. Drivers are rarely ready to admit that they allowed their minds to wander before crashing, and distraction leaves no lingering cues for police officers to pick up on. However, experienced personal injury attorneys may be able to find evidence that could be used to establish distraction by looking at cellphone records and examining the data stored by modern vehicle technology.