What You Need to Know About Distracted Driving

The Washington Traffic Safety Commission reports that a striking 30% of WA crash fatalities are due to distracted driving. But many people still drive without giving their full attention to the road – maybe because they don’t understand the consequences and risks, or maybe just because they don’t know what counts as distracted driving. Distracted driving poses serious risks to your safety and others’, so it’s important to know exactly what you should and shouldn’t do.

So, What Is It?

Distracted driving is driving your vehicle while doing some other activity that takes your attention off the road. Driving safely requires the full attention of your eyes, ears, body, and mind.

What Exactly Counts as Distracted Driving?

Most of us would probably be able to list a few examples of distracted driving, but the full definition includes a wide range of activities. Here are some, from the Washington State Patrol, Center for Disease Control, and National Highway Safety Administration.

  • Texting
  • Talking with other people in the car
  • Tuning the radio
  • Eating
  • Using a navigation system
  • Smoking
  • Reading
  • Grooming

What Are the Consequences?

The most important consequence is risk of injury. Thousands of people die and hundreds of thousands are injured every year in distracted driving crashes (CDC). Another risk is property damage; even if you get lucky and no one gets badly hurt, crashes from drifting while looking away from the road can total your car. Drivers are three times more likely to be in a crash while talking on their phone, so you’re putting yourself, your passengers, and your vehicle at risk whenever you drive and use a phone (WTSC).

There are financial consequences aside from property damage, too. You can get reported to your insurance company for a cell phone violation. Your insurance rates are likely to go up once your insurance company gets word of your distracted driving habit.

There are also legal consequences if you get caught driving while distracted. If caught using a cell phone while driving, you risk getting an “eDUI.” In 2017, Washington State passed the Driving Under the Influence of Electronics Act, which makes it an offense to use a cell phone while driving, even if you’re stopped at a stoplight. In WA, the first time you get a distracted driving ticket, you will owe at least $136 in fines. After that, it increases to $234. If you get pulled over for another offense, and are found to be doing one of the distracted driving activities (like smoking or eating), you can get a $99 ticket on top of your other offense (WSP).

What Should I Do If I Get Injured by a Distracted Driver?

If you were hurt in an accident involving a distracted driver, you should:

  1. Obtain the opposing party’s information;
  2. Obtain medical treatment for your injuries;
  3. Report the incident to your insurance company; and
  4. Consult an attorney before talking to the opposing insurance company.

For more information on what to do after a car accident, check out our step-by-step guide here. You should also schedule a free consultation with an attorney at Becker Franklin Rovang by calling us at (360) 876-4800 to learn about your options.