More and more people are walking and cycling for health, and it’s more important than ever to look both ways before crossing the road. A recent report from the Governors Highway Safety Association estimates that fatal crashes involving pedestrians hit nearly 6,000 in 2016, the highest number in over twenty years. While there are many reasons pedestrian injuries are currently on the rise across the United States, researchers agree that distractions are largely to blame for the record number of pedestrian deaths.
Distracted Driving Poses a Special Risk to Pedestrians
Driving requires a significant amount of a person’s attention, but many drivers tend to “zone out” while driving as they become more and more comfortable behind the wheel. This false sense of security may lead people to believe that they can multitask while driving, diverting more and more attention to things that take their minds and eyes off the road.
There are three main types of driving distractions:
- Manual. A manual distraction is anything that causes a driver to take one or both hands off of the wheel. Eating, drinking, smoking, looking for objects in a purse or wallet, or even adjusting the radio can cause manual distractions. Many of these distractions can be avoided with a little planning, such as adjusting mirrors, getting directions to your destination, or familiarizing yourself with your car’s dials and settings before you set off.
- Visual. Visual distractions take a driver’s eyes off of the road, such as searching for spilled or dropped items on the floor of the car, reading the directions on a GPS screen, or adjusting temperature controls. The easiest way to prevent these distractions is to appoint a passenger to act as your copilot, putting him or her in charge of the radio or GPS. Even if you are driving alone, any non-driving tasks that are not emergencies should wait until the car is parked.
- Cognitive. Any action that causes a driver to concentrate on a non-driving task can be a potential distraction. Cars are becoming more and more automated, with built-in features that make it more comfortable for drivers and passengers to reach their destinations. However, some of these features may actually do more harm than good by taking a driver’s attention off the road—particularly if they involve interfacing with a driver’s smartphone. Even hands-free communication can divert a driver’s attention, causing him to concentrate on a phone conversation or dictating a message. If a driver cannot devote all of his mental faculties to driving, he or she should pull over at the nearest safe place and take a break.
One of the most dangerous behaviors is texting while driving, and the reason is because it requires all three types of distracting interaction from the driver. A driver who is devoting his eyes, brain, and hands to texting is devoting very little attention to the road ahead, and can cover an entire football field in the time it takes to glance down at one text message. A driver’s risk of getting into a car accident grows higher with each distraction he faces—and people who are struck while unprotected by air bags and crumple zones are more likely to be killed as a result.
Distracted Pedestrians Increase Risk of Injuries
Not only are drivers who are distracted by their devices likely to cause serious injuries, there are many pedestrians whose own smartphones are taking their attention away from road hazards. A person who practices “distracted walking” could step in front of a car without the right-of-way, trip or fall over potholes, or fail to hear oncoming traffic while crossing mid-block. While cell phones are only one form of distraction, they are arguably the most dangerous hazard for both drivers and pedestrians. Whether you are walking or driving, always practice safe cell phone use—and if you are a driver, always stow your phone until the end of the journey.
If you were struck by a distracted driver, we can help you get the compensation you deserve for your medical bills and lost wages. Contact our legal team today to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation.