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Why Is It Difficult to Resist Distracted Driving?Distracted driving is a hazard that does not seem to be going away, as people continue to be attached to their digital devices at all times. Diverting your attention from the road can cause an accident that results in injuries to yourself or someone else. According to one traffic accident study, nine people die and more than 1,000 people are injured every day in incidents involving distracted driving. As easy as it is to say that you should ignore everything other than your driving, drivers have a difficult time putting that into practice. Why do people allow themselves to be distracted while driving when they know it is dangerous? There are several possible explanations:

  1. The Fallacy of Multitasking: People have become used to constantly checking their phones while performing other tasks, such as working or watching television. You may think of this as multitasking because you are doing two activities at once. However, dividing your attention makes you less effective at both tasks. Looking away from your work for a few seconds to check a text message may do no harm because you are able to stop your work and start again. Looking away for a few seconds while you are driving is dangerous because your driving conditions could change at any moment.
  2. Nagging Alerts: You cannot help becoming momentarily distracted when you hear an alert for an incoming message or call. Answering that message or call will further distract you and increase the risk that you may be involved in an accident. Despite the danger, drivers are often overcome with an urge to know who is trying to contact them. You may be expecting an important call or to hear back from someone you have messaged. You may be worried that the call is about an emergency or an opportunity that will disappear if you do not respond immediately. If you think the message is that important, you should safely pull over in order to check it.
  3. False Safety of Hands-Free Devices: Laws against distracted driving exempt hands-free technology that allows you to answer calls and messages through voice commands or dashboard controls. However, drivers can become cognitively distracted without diverting their eyes or hands from their driving. When you are focusing on a conversation, you are not mentally ready to react to unexpected circumstances that may arise while driving. You are less able to foresee a potential hazard and slower to respond.

Contact a McHenry County Personal Injury Lawyer

Distracted driving can establish negligence in a personal injury case. Another driver may have caused the accident because they were distracted, but you could also share liability for the accident if you were distracted. A Crystal Lake, Illinois, personal injury attorney at Botto Gilbert Lancaster, PC, can explain how distracted driving may affect the outcome of your case. Schedule a free consultation by calling 815-338-3838.

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Stricter Distracted Driving Law Could Cause More License SuspensionsIllinois lawmakers are trying to further crack down on distracted driving by changing the state's traffic laws. Starting July 1, 2019, using an electronic communication device while driving will be a moving violation for first-time offenders. Under the current law, this offense is not a moving violation until the second time a driver commits it. This minor change to the traffic law could add up to Illinois more frequently suspending drivers’ licenses because of multiple moving violations.

Consequences

The fines remain the same for using an electronic communications device while driving. The only difference is that they will apply after the first violation instead of the second. They include:

  • $75 for a first offense;
  • $100 for a second offense;
  • $125 for a third offense; and
  • $150 for a fourth or subsequent offense.

You face consequences that are more severe than fines if you commit this violation multiple times. Illinois will suspend your driver’s license if you are ticketed for three moving violations within a year’s time. The change to the law means that your first electronic device offense will count towards that moving violation total instead of being a warning. Illinois assigns points to each moving violation, which it adds up to determine how long your suspension will last. The electronic device violation is 20 points, and committing that same violation three times within a year could result in a three-month license suspension.

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Rideshare Drivers Face Inherent DistractionsDrivers working for rideshare services such as Uber and Lyft have the added responsibility for the safety of their passengers, to go along with all drivers’ responsibility to each other on the road. Because of the distractions involved with the job, safe driving advocates wonder whether rideshare drivers are more likely to be in car crashes. Unfortunately, there are no official records of the number of accidents involving rideshare drivers. Police crash reports do not categorize rideshare vehicles for statistical purposes. Unlike taxi cabs, rideshare vehicles are not obviously marked as a commercial vehicle. Analysis of how rideshare drivers operate suggests that they face increased distractions related to their work.

Focus on Phones

Whereas taxi drivers typically use radio dispatch for communications, rideshare drivers communicate using their phones. Drivers have their phones mounted to their dashboards, with their ridesharing app open. The app is used for accepting jobs, giving directions and contacting potential passengers. The rideshare companies say that they design their apps to minimize distractions. However, there are several unavoidable distractions involved with using a phone while driving:

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Distracted Driving Extends Beyond CellphonesDiscussions on distracted driving often focus on drivers using cellphones. Illinois is one of several states to criminalize talking or texting on a handheld electronic device while operating a motor vehicle. However, cellphones are not the only culprits in distracted driving. People regularly perform actions while driving that are legal but qualify as distracting. Any activity that momentarily shifts a person’s attention away from driving can cause a vehicle accident with personal injuries.

Physical Distractions

The obvious danger of using a cellphone while driving is that it takes a driver’s hands off the wheel and eyes off the road. In the moment that someone’s attention is drawn to his or her phone, an unexpected obstacle may appear in front of him or her. By the time the driver sees the danger, it may be too late to react and avoid an accident. There are other activities that demand the attention of someone’s eyes and hands, such as:

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Pedestrian Fatalities Rising in U.S.The Governors Highway Safety Association has released a concerning report that says the number of pedestrian fatalities resulting from vehicle accidents may have increased by 11 percent from 2015 to 2016. The GHSA's preliminary report for 2016 projects that there may have been just shy of 6,000 pedestrian deaths in the U.S. last year. Though the final number must be confirmed, it would fit the trend from previous years. Researchers suspect that pedestrian fatalities are increasing because of distractions for both drivers and pedestrians.

The Numbers

The GHSA conducted its preliminary 2016 study after data from recent years showed an increase in the number of pedestrians killed during traffic crashes:

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