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Texas Personal Injury News

Monday, October 26, 2015

Talk to a Car Accident Lawyer After a Wreck with a Texting Driver

Many of us have been guilty of it. We're heading down the highway at 70 mph, and our phone dings — a text. We know that we shouldn't, but what if it's work (or the kids, our significant other or the babysitter)? So we grab the phone, glance down at it quickly, then back up at the road. Maybe we shoot off a quick answer; even a short "yes," "no" or "LOL." If we are lucky, nothing terrible results.

But to read or send a text, a driver looks away from the road for five seconds on average. At just 55 mph, vehicles can travel the entire length of one football field in that short span of time. At highway speeds of 70 mph, they can go even farther. A lot of things can go wrong in that time and distance when a driver is preoccupied with texting.

When luck runs out

In a twist of terrible irony last year, one North Carolina driver died only seconds after posting on Facebook

"The happy song makes me HAPPY," 

an apparent reference to the Pharrell song dominating the airwaves in 2014. While the woman had not technically been texting, she certainly was preoccupied with things other than driving; in addition to the Facebook status that became her tragic epitaph, she had also been taking selfies while driving.

According to a study done by the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute, those engaged in texting behind the wheel have three times the risk of wrecking. But the researchers are not alone in their conclusions. Studies done for the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety indicated that the likelihood of causing a rear-end collision or near-miss is five times greater for texting drivers.

Who are the worst offenders?

Research conducted online last year from drivers all over America indicated that the worst culprits were those aged 19-39. More drivers from those groups admitted to sending or reading at least one text in the previous month while driving when compared with rates for older drivers.

An aggregate analysis of 28 separate research experiments using both instrument-implemented vehicles and driving simulators found the act of reading or responding to a text message:
  • Increased the amount of time drivers' eye were off the road
  • Reduced reaction time
  • Made lane deviations more likely

The problem is rooted in the manner in which drivers are scanning and processing information while driving. Punching buttons and manipulating smartphones to read and send texts requires drivers to divert attention from the highway. In one test, researchers used brain imaging techniques with volunteers on simulated vehicles. The results were shocking — brain activity related to driving was reduced 37 percent due to cognitive distractions from interacting with their cell phones. Basically, when our brains are engaged in texting behaviors and even phone conversations behind the wheel, we can look right at something while driving and fail to process the information or comprehend what we see. The results can be deadly. 

Texas laws for texting and driving

At present time, it is only against the law for novice drivers to text while driving in Texas. Additionally, school bus drivers can't use their cell phones with children aboard, and no drivers are permitted to use hand-held devices for any purpose in school zones.

However, numerous cities passed ordinances prohibiting texting behind the wheel. Austin was the first to take action, enacting a ban on all texting for drivers back in November of 2009. In the ensuing years, according to the Texas Department of Transportation, there are now 40 different jurisdictions in the state where texting while driving is illegal. But the jury is still out on whether or not bans on texting and use of hand-held cell phones while driving reduces wrecks. One study from 2009 found banning didn't decrease the claim rates to insurance companies for collisions. While the reasons for this are not completely clear, driver non-compliance is likely a factor.

The damage it does

Nobody plans to end their life by posting a silly Facebook status, responding "LOL" to a texted meme or being otherwise distracted by an electronic device. Neither does anyone want to be the one to make parents grieve after a texting driver plows into a school bus full of kids or causes a family of children to be orphaned when their parents are killed in a head-on collision.

Even when the results aren't quite that tragic, if a texting driver collides with your vehicle, it is likely that you will suffer injuries. Most certainly you will sustain property damage to your vehicle; it could even be totaled. Consider how you will meet all of your work and familial obligations without a car. Along with mounting medical and rehabilitative bills and associated expenses, it can be a real nightmare.

It's likely the at-fault driver's insurance company will offer to rent you a car for a few days or weeks and then make some sort of settlement offer shortly after your wreck. They are counting on your eagerness to resolve the matter and walk away with a few dollars and a repaired or replaced vehicle. But there are some caveats involved in being too quick to settle when the accident is clearly no fault of your own.

Why hiring a Texas car accident makes a lot of sense

You may be discharged by the doctor with a clean bill of health, yet find that those injuries that were assumed were resolved really were not. Here are some things to consider:

  • Will your injured back and legs give you the support and stamina you need to host and prepare the upcoming holiday meals?
  • What about all the raking, pruning and other seasonal yard work that needs to be done? Will your injuries allow you to complete these tasks, or will you have to shell out money to someone else now?
  • Can you still cut down, carry and set up a holiday tree, gather decorations from the attic, bring them down and hang them up?
  • Can you still toss your young children or grandchildren joyfully up into the air and then catch them, enjoying their giggles and pleas to "Do it again!"

Being too quick to accept a settlement check means that you can't really be sure that you are still able to do all of your normal tasks and participate fully in family life and recreational activities as you did before. It is not a wise decision to accept the first low-ball offer that comes, as once you sign and cash that check, the insurance company's liability to you for your injuries and damages ends.

At Chandler, Mathis & Zivley, we take great pride in working hard for our clients. We battle insurance companies all the time to get the most for our clients. When you are looking for a Texas car accident lawyer, give us a call.

 
Sources:

http://www.vtti.vt.edu/featured/?p=193

http://www.iihs.org/iihs/topics/t/distracted-driving/qanda

http://www.txdot.gov/driver/laws/cellphones.html


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