The dangers of cell phones and distracted driving
I live in Larkspur, a beautiful area of Colorado between Denver and Colorado Springs, just south of Castle Rock. Driving to work every day means at least a 45-minute commute each way. I have a lot of time to see examples of distracted driving – drivers drifting over the line, stopping just short of hitting the car in front of them, or even seeing drivers text, stare at their phones, or eat while driving with the other hand.
I’ve had many clients who have been injured by a driver who has driven at full speed into the back of stopped traffic. If the driver was alert and not impaired by alcohol or drug, it’s hard to explain this other than that the driver was likely distracted, and yet many at-fault drivers will not admit what caused them not to notice fully stopped traffic right in front of them. I’ve heard everything from, “um, maybe I just glanced at the radio” to “I wasn’t distracted at all!”
Distracted driving is a common cause of accidents in Colorado
We know that Colorado roads are becoming more and more dangerous, as I covered in this blog post, but it’s hard to nail down the exact number of accidents that are caused by distracted driving and cell phone use, largely because many people simply are not truthful when they drive into someone because they were looking at their phone. According to Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) representative, Sam Cole, who oversees CDOT’s distracted driving program, distracted driving caused at least 72 deaths and over 15,000 crashes in 2022, and those are likely only the numbers of confirmed or admitted cases. Distracted driving can include cell phone use, including calling or texting, or non-driving activities like reaching for objects, fiddling with the radio, eating or drinking, or even putting on makeup or shaving.
We all get accustomed to driving, and some of us begin to get so comfortable with it that we think we don’t really have to give it our full attention. It is easy to forget how much distance is covered in just a couple of seconds at freeway speeds. Anything that takes our attention away from safely driving is a distraction, and in sometimes it is the simple distractions that cause life changing damage.
Types of distracted driving
The Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) identify three types of distractions while driving:
- Visual: Taking your eyes off the road, like glancing down to change the radio or looking at scenery
- Manual: Taking your hands off the wheel, like grabbing a French fry or trying to swat a bug
- Cognitive: Taking your mind off driving, like talking on the phone
Some distracted behaviors can involve more than one of these, and as you might imagine, become more dangerous if you are distracted in all three ways. For example, the CDC says that, at 55 miles an hour, sending or reading a text while driving is like driving the length of a football field with your eyes closed! This is more shocking when you consider that a 2019 survey of U.S. high school students revealed that 39% of them admitted to texting or e-mailing while driving on at least one day in the past 30 days. A comprehensive NHTSA analysis on driving data similarly found that eating or drinking while driving increases the chance of getting into a car crash by 80% and a driver is eight times more likely to get into a crash when reaching for an object (like that soda or coffee mug).
Is it illegal to drive and talk or text in Colorado?
Colorado has state laws around cell phone use while driving. In particular:
- Adult drivers can use cell phones for voice calls. They are allowed to hold their phone but are encouraged to rely upon hands-free or earphones worn in one ear. Drivers are prohibited from manual entry on a phone while driving.
- Drivers under the age of 18 are prohibited from all cell phone use, including voice calls, texting, or browsing the Internet or social media.
Distracted driving can be lethal
And yet, distracted driving injures or kills thousands of people on Colorado roads every year, including pedestrians and bicyclists, who are particularly at risk when a distracted driver comes upon them. The recent tragedy experienced by the loved ones of a rising cycling star, teenager Magnus White, in Boulder is a terrible example. Magnus was training for an upcoming championship and was killed by a 23-year-old driver who drifted from her lane into the right shoulder. Since neither speeding nor impairment from drugs or alcohol are suspected, the cause is being investigated as potential distracted driving.
Injured by a distracted driver? Vern Ready is here for you.
Drivers at fault for causing accidents and injuring others aren’t always doing something terribly outrageous like drinking and driving or traveling at high speeds. But that doesn’t mean that the consequences aren’t terrible for those they injure. I am passionate about holding at-fault drivers accountable and those who insure them to their promises.
If you have been injured in a car accident, I am ready to fight for you. Consultations are free, and there is no obligation to do anything other than talk about your options. Call 303-339-8846. You can also schedule your free consultation with me at my office, at your home, or on Zoom/Facetime/Webex by clicking here.