Distracted driving on Massachusetts roads: it’s not just texting

Distracted driving encompasses much more than simply texting behind the wheel.

We often think of texting when we hear the phrase "distracted driving." This is likely due to numerous public education campaigns aimed at curbing the dangerous practice. It's also due to the sheer volume of drivers who admit to texting while behind the wheel. After all, an estimated 660,000 American drivers are on their phones at any given time.

What we may not realize, however, is that distracted driving encompasses much more than just texting. Yes, texting is distracting, and it is particularly dangerous: reading or sending a single text message makes it six times more likely that a driver will crash. There's also the fact that in the approximately two seconds it takes to read a text, a car can travel the length of a football field, all while the driver's eyes are off the road. Even given this frightening information, though, texting is not the only distraction resulting in injury-causing accidents.

Other in-car technology is just as distracting

A key distraction, particularly in newer vehicles, is integrated technology also known as "infotainment." Using a car's GPS (or the GPS on your handheld device) while the car is in motion, adjusting the radio or mp3 player, selecting an audiobook to listen to for your journey, changing the climate controls on a touch screen; all of these things are very convenient, but they are still distracting. In order to do any of them, you must pull your eyes away from the road and at least one hand off the wheel. Even so, 53 percent of drivers surveyed assumed that they are safe because auto manufacturers installed them in the vehicle.

A cellphone itself can be a distraction, too, even when you aren't actively texting on it. Simply using a handheld - or even hands-free - phone to converse while you are driving is still distracting. You're using up valuable cognitive processing space to focus in on the conversation itself instead of being free to deal with sudden hazards like changes in traffic patterns, road debris or even animals in the roadway (particularly common this time of the year).

Of course, the myriad other uses for your phone are also temptations behind the wheel. A survey conducted by the National Safety Council survey revealed that 74 percent of teens admitted to using phone apps - particularly social media like Facebook and Twitter - while driving. Other popular apps, including Snapchat and WhatsApp, and email have caused thousands of accidents as well when used behind the wheel.

Were you injured in a distracted driving crash?

The sad truth is that any of us could be involved in an accident caused by a distracted driver, and we could be seriously injured. If you were hurt in a crash because an irresponsible driver was texting, talking on a cellphone, updating social media or otherwise distracted, you have legal rights. You should speak with an experienced personal injury attorney like those at the Worcester law offices of Joseph C. Cariglia, P.C. You can call them today toll free at 866-491-6561 or locally at 508-762-4327, or send them an email to schedule a free consultation to discuss your case.