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Distracted Driving is Negligence

I’m Katelyn Holub, an attorney focusing on personal injury law in northwest Indiana.

Welcome to Personal Injury Primer, where we break down the law into simple terms, provide legal tips, and discuss personal injury law topics.

Today’s question comes from a caller who was rear-ended while at a stop light. The driver who hit her got out and apologized, saying she was distracted, and then proceeded to argue that the crash was not her fault because she got a phone call and it distracted her.

Most of the time, the term distracted driving is simply another way of saying that a driver was texting or engaged in some other conduct which leads to inattention to the road and, in turn, a crash.

Giving the woman who rear-ended the caller the benefit of the doubt, perhaps she was not texting or calling someone and was trying to drive safely. But upon receiving a call, she felt she simply had to answer.

Perhaps she thought that answering the phone was simply a circumstance beyond her control. Thus, in her mind, the crash was not her fault.

But, the driver’s choice of answering a call or picking up a phone to look at a text is choosing to be distracted. In doing so, the driver is being negligent and can expect to have to answer in court.

Many different types of activities can amount to distracted driving. For example, eating while behind the wheel is also considered distracted driving.

Yes, most cars have cup holders but don’t have cheeseburger holders. Or taco holders. Or chicken sandwich holders. Or pizza holders.

Unfortunately, what are you using to drive the car if your hands are holding food? A knee is not a proper way to steer a vehicle.

Talking to a passenger can also qualify as distracted driving.

When a driver gets caught up in a conversation with a passenger and forgets that they’re in a vehicle going 55 mph on a crowded highway, it counts as distracted driving. Or perhaps it’s not talking that is distracting you, but maybe the screaming of children in the back seat. Yep, you guessed it: distracted driving.

Combing your hair while driving, applying makeup, using a cordless shaver … yes, all are considered distractions. And, if deemed the cause of an accident, the driver would be considered negligent.

Distracted driving comes down to 3 things … and it involves your eyes, hands, and mind.

Visual – taking your eyes off the road.

Manual – taking your hands off the road.

Cognitive – taking your mind off driving.

Drivers don’t always consider taking their mind off driving to be a distraction, yet, many have admitted after an incident that they were indeed daydreaming. Maybe it was just for a split second. But that’s all it takes to distract them from paying attention to the road.

And no video gaming while driving. Think that’s crazy? It is. Yet, some cars offer that service to their drivers. (See our blog post “Driving While Video Gaming” December 2021)

Perhaps the funniest situation that comes to mind happened in a trial we handled many years ago. Our client was rear-ended by a police car. When I asked the driver why he didn’t see our client stopped ahead in traffic, he had no answer as to why he failed to stop.

When I questioned his partner in the courtroom, he said, somewhat sheepishly,  that two young ladies were walking on the sidewalk. We were both turned away from the road and had our eyes on the two young ladies.

Bottom line: Distracted driving is negligence, plain and simple.

I hope you found this information helpful. If you are a victim of someone’s carelessness, substandard medical care, a product defect, work injury, or another personal injury, please call (219) 736-9700 with your questions. You can also learn more about us by visiting our website at DavidHolubLaw.com – while there, make sure you request a copy of our book “Fighting for Truth.”