Substantial research has shown that cell phone use while driving is one of the leading causes of accidents on the road. Some studies have even concluded that the impairments associated with mobile phone use behind the wheel can be as extreme as those associated with drunk driving. Drivers who neglect their duty to keep themselves and others safe on the road put everyone at risk. In the state of Maryland, it is illegal to use a handheld phone while driving.
If you have been the victim of a distracted driving accident, your first step should be to seek the legal guidance of an attorney competent in car accident law. We at Belsky, Weinberg & Horowitz, LLC are highly qualified to defend the rights of injured drivers in Maryland, and we work hard to hold negligent drivers accountable for their actions. No one should be hurt or killed because someone wanted to check a text message behind the wheel.
How Mobile Phone Use Impairs Drivers
Attentive driving is one of the most effective ways to stay safe on the road. The causes of distracted driving can come in many forms, but one of the most prevalent is mobile phone usage. Most people are aware that using a cell phone while driving can be dangerous, but many tend to disregard the risk, thinking that a quick glance at the screen won’t put anyone in danger. For the safety of yourself and others, it is necessary to be aware of just how detrimental cell phone use is to your ability to drive safely.
The following are some ways that mobile phone usage decreases your ability to drive dutifully:
- Visual Impairment. Clear, unobstructed front and peripheral vision is essential to safe driving. When a driver’s eyes are away from the road and on a cell phone, even for a second, they are unable to react to changing conditions. In critical circumstances, such as a pedestrian running into the road or a driver losing control of the car beside you, cell phone use can be a matter of life or death. You are never as safe looking at a screen as you are with your eyes on the road.
- Manual Distraction. If one or both hands are operating a mobile device, necessary tasks such as steering, shifting, or signaling become more difficult. While it may seem simple to text with one hand and steer with the other, your manual dexterity will be inhibited to some degree, and sometimes it is a split-second which makes the difference. Manual distraction can be especially dangerous to young drivers who have not developed muscle memory, or older drivers whose physical reaction times have deteriorated with age.
- Loss of Focus. Driving is a mental as well as physical task, and it requires concentration, focus, and an ability to make instantaneous decisions and judgments. When you use your phone, your mind becomes engaged with things other than the task of driving, causing slowed reaction times and impaired judgment.
- Inability to Hear Signs of Danger. It is well known that vision can be obstructed by a cell phone, but hearing can also be affected. If a driver is listening to a voice message, making a phone call, or listening to a podcast or music, whether or not they are wearing earphones, they are likely to miss warning sounds which can prevent accidents, such as passing motorcycles, car horns, screeching tires, or sirens.
- Emotional Volatility. Even if the physical experience of using a cell phone does not cause an accident, the emotional repercussions can. If someone checks their phone and receives bad news, or even good news, their emotions can distract them from the all-important task of safe driving. Laughing, crying, bursts of anger, and other emotional reactions can be highly distracting to drivers.
- Potential Link to Other Risky Behaviors. It has been found that some drivers who use cell phones behind the wheel, especially young and inexperienced drivers, are more likely to engage in other risky driving behaviors. Drivers who admit to cell phone usage may be more likely to engage in activities such as talking with friends, eating or drinking, taking photographs, reaching for objects in the car, listening to music, changing songs frequently, or applying makeup while driving.
Consequences of Mobile Phone Usage While Driving
The consequences of mobile phone use while operating a vehicle can be catastrophic. Those who drive while distracted by a mobile device put themselves and others at risk of death, injury, and permanent damage. Losses due to unsafe behind-the-wheel behavior such as cell phone use can include the following, and other, damages:
- Initial medical expenses and continuing medical bills
- Cost of hospitalization or physical care
- Therapy, counseling, or psychiatric care
- Reconstructive surgery
- Medications and medical equipment
- Loss of income
- Loss of future income due to disablement
- Disfigurement or permanent scarring
- Cost of automobile repair or new auto purchase
- Damage to property, structures, or roadways
- Emotional trauma
- Loss of consortium
Mobile phone-related accidents are avoidable. The best way to prevent distracted driving is to eliminate the sources of distraction as much as possible. In some cases, the use of technology may help reduce distracted driving. An awareness of what causes distractions, and the serious consequences that can ensue, could help you take steps against dangerous driving. Get in touch with us today to schedule a free consultation, and let us help you make Maryland’s roads safer for all of us.