Each year, thousands of Americans are killed in motor vehicle crashes caused by distracted driving, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Hundreds of thousands more sustain serious injuries in these preventable tragedies.
Although Alabama has strict laws designed to discourage distracted driving behaviors, our state is no stranger to distracted driving incidents. In just one recent year, there were 953 fatalities on Alabama roads, 39 of which were confirmed to be associated with distracted driving, the Alabama Department of Transportation reports. Ten percent of all fatal Alabama car crashes in one year involved a teen driver who was distracted at the time of the accident, according to Alabama Public Health.
Distracted driving is typically understood as driving while engaged in any other activity that diverts a driver’s attention away from the task at hand. There are countless ways a driver can become distracted behind the wheel. When this happens, distracted drivers put themselves and everyone around them at risk.
If you were harmed in an accident because of a suspected distracted driver, you may be entitled to compensation for your injuries. The experienced and compassionate car accident attorneys at Stokes Stemle, LLC have devoted their practice exclusively to personal injury law and are committed to helping Alabama accident victims take back control of their lives.
We are proud to offer full-service assistance to all of our clients, from helping victims find a physician to addressing urgent questions after normal business hours. Call us anytime, day or night, to schedule a free initial consultation with our Alabama distracted driving lawyers.
What Are the Four Main Categories of Distractions?
Distracted driving can take many forms, but most distractions can be classified according to four main categories:
- Manual distractions – Manual distractions are any activities that take a driver’s hands away from the wheel of a car in motion. While it’s technically possible to drive with just one hand, keeping both hands on the wheel at all times allows drivers to react much more quickly and effectively to potential road hazards. Any distractions that lead drivers to remove one or both hands from their steering wheels compromise both maneuverability and overall safety.
- Cognitive distractions – Cognitive distractions divert drivers’ mental awareness away from the task of driving. Operating a motor vehicle is an inherently complicated and dangerous undertaking that requires undivided attention and quick, reflexive thinking. Drivers who are mentally preoccupied or attempting to divide their focus behind the wheel compromise their ability to react safely and appropriately on the road, placing everyone at risk.
- Visual distractions – Visual distractions are any distractions that cause drivers to take their eyes off of the road. Things happen very quickly when drivers travel at high speeds, so even a brief moment of inattention has the potential to wreak havoc. For example, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration calculated that drivers traveling at 55 mph can cross the entire length of a football field in just five seconds. Think about how many things could happen in that distance if a driver’s eyes are not on the road.
- Auditory distractions – Auditory distractions are noises or activities that prevent drivers from hearing everything that’s going on around them. Drivers may obtain more information about their surroundings from their visual fields, but sounds from construction sites, car horns, or other notification systems can offer potentially vital warnings, too. Especially when visibility is limited, auditory warnings can give drivers the split-second advantage they may need to avoid damaging and injurious collisions.
The Centers for Disease Control notes that texting while driving is among the most dangerous forms of distracted driving. Though texting behind the wheel is very common, it is especially hazardous because it combines three types of distraction. Composing or reading a text message requires visual attention to look at a phone screen, manual attention to type or scroll through messages, and cognitive attention to consider the contents of a text.
Common Driver Distractions
Texting while driving may be exceptionally risky, but it’s far from the only type of driving distraction. There are many other common distractions, some of which may seem benign despite having the potential to cause serious destruction.
Examples of some other driver distractions include:
- Making or receiving phone calls
- Using devices or digital apps
- Reading or watching entertainment content
- Consuming food or beverages
- Cleaning spills from food or drinks
- Personal grooming or dressing
- Adjusting radios or air conditioning
- Looking at GPS data or road maps
- Focusing on passenger conversations
- Attending to or disciplining children
- Daydreaming or rubbernecking
- Listening to excessively loud music
- Wearing headphones or earbuds
Distracted Driving Laws in Alabama
Most of the common driver distractions listed above are not explicitly illegal, no matter how hazardous they may be. In the state of Alabama, the use of cell phones and other handheld devices is prohibited only for motorists under the age of 18 who have held an Intermediate license for less than six months. However, like most states in the U.S., Alabama has adopted a text messaging ban for all drivers, regardless of age or licensing status.
The text messaging ban applies to all “text-based communications,” including standard text messages, emails, and other digital messages. There are certain exceptions for individuals who are contacting emergency services, parking off-road to use their devices, or receiving pre-programmed messages from navigation apps.
Drivers who violate underage cell phone use or texting while driving restrictions in Alabama could face financial penalties, points against their license, reckless driving charges, and in some extreme cases, even vehicular homicide charges.
If you were injured by a distracted driver, you may be wondering whether any laws affect your ability to seek justice and recover compensation for your injuries. You should know that Alabama law places a two-year limit on the amount of time personal injury victims, such as those involved in distracted driving accidents, have to bring lawsuits in court. This means that if you are unable to obtain reimbursement through an insurance settlement and fail to file a lawsuit within two years of your distracted driving accident, your case may be dismissed by the court.
Gathering Evidence and Proving Distracted Driving
Two years sounds like a long time, but when you factor in how long it could take to recover from your immediate injuries, build a strong case, and complete one or more rounds of settlement negotiations, that time may disappear quickly. Not to mention, there may be challenges related to collecting solid supporting evidence, especially if an at-fault driver is trying to avoid liability.
One of the best ways to avoid the headaches associated with both of these challenges is to hire a skilled distracted driving accident attorney as soon as possible.
A distracted driving accident lawyer in your corner will help you observe all relevant legal deadlines and regulations, so your case isn’t derailed by technicalities.
Seasoned attorneys also have access to an array of resources that can uncover valuable proof to bolster your claim, such as:
- Police accident reports, which typically contain law enforcements’ official explanation for the cause of an accident, as well as other relevant information like weather conditions or results from toxicology reports
- Statements from other drivers, passengers, and witnesses of the accident
- Testimony from expert witnesses, such as accident reconstruction specialists or medical professionals
- Cell phone call or text message records of the at-fault driver
- Photographs of the accident scene, road and weather conditions, and any injuries or property damage sustained as a result of the accident
- Video footage from nearby security or traffic cameras
- “Black box” data, if a commercial vehicle was involved in your collision
- Medical records, treatment expenses, pay stubs, and other material proof of your financial losses and physical suffering
Contact Our Distracted Driving Accident Attorneys at Stokes Stemle, LLC
Securing the services of a dedicated distracted driving accident attorney may be the most important step you take toward recovery. The sooner you have an aggressive advocate in your corner, the sooner you’ll know the peace of mind that every avenue is being explored as you pursue maximum compensation.
At Stokes Stemle, LLC, we understand that many victims of distracted driving accidents are in tight financial circumstances as they cope with their losses, so we offer our services on a contingency-fee basis. This means that when you hire us, you’ll pay no upfront fees. Until we win compensation for you, you won’t owe us a dime. Even then, our fee comes out of the settlement amount, not directly out of your pocket.
To get started with your no-cost, no-obligation case review, call us or contact us online now.