Most drivers likely think of themselves as careful and responsible motorists. However, distracted driving is exceedingly common. Anything that causes you to take your attention from the road could be classified as a distraction. Are your everyday habits distracting you while driving?

Distracted Driving

Distracted driving is one of the most common causes of accidents. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that over 3,000 people were killed in the U.S. in 2019 due to distracted driving, and over 420,000 people were injured in accidents involving distracted drivers.

There are three types of distraction – visual, cognitive, and manual.

Visual distractions cause drivers to take their eyes off the road. Examples of everyday activities that are considered visual distractions while driving are looking at a navigation system or GPS, glancing at the radio, or looking at a passenger in the vehicle. Taking your eyes off the road for even a second can be dangerous.

Cognitive distractions exist when your mind is not focused on your driving. These can be deceptively hazardous. People often perform one task while thinking about something else. However, this can sometimes cause accidents because it affects how alert and aware you are. Examples include listening to music or a podcast, talking on a hands-free device, replaying an argument or conversation in your head, or daydreaming.

The last category is manual distraction, which is often the most dangerous.

What are Manual Distractions?

Manual distractions occur when you take your hands off the wheel. You do this when you adjust the air or heat, reach for something out of the seat or off the floorboard, and eat or drink while driving. Your reaction time and steering ability can be negatively impacted if your hands are not on the steering wheel.

Explaining Manual Distractions

Why are manual distractions so dangerous? The other two categories—visual and cognitive—can exist independently. For example, daydreaming is only cognitive because it does not involve taking your hands off the wheel or looking away from the road. Manual distractions, on the other hand, often involve one or both of the other types of distractions.

Doing your makeup or shaving in the car requires you to take at least one hand off of the wheel, look in the mirror, and think about the grooming task. Reaching for something on your floorboard means that you will likely glance down while trying to grab it. If you are texting while driving, your hands, attention, and vision will likely be involved in that task, as well.

Manual distractions can cause car accidents easily in large part due to this crossover.

New York Laws on Distracted Driving

The distracted driving laws in New York are strict and intended to decrease the number of accidents related to this driving behavior. Specifically, the use of cell phones and other handheld electronic devices is often the focus of laws regarding distractions while driving.

In New York, it is illegal to:

  • Talk on a handheld cell phone

  • Send, read, type, browse, or otherwise access electronic data like texts and websites

  • Take, view, or send pictures

  • Play games

Using your cell phone while driving is prohibited, with the exception of contacting emergency services. Violation of this law could lead to tickets, fines, and points on your driving record. Fines can be as much as $450, with repeat offenses leading to license suspension.

Steps to Take if You’re in an Accident Caused by a Manual Distraction

The first step after an accident is to check yourself and your passengers for injuries. If emergency medical attention is needed, call 911. If it is safe to do so and you do not need emergency medical attention, take photos of the accident. You will also need to exchange insurance information with the other driver, as well as obtain contact information for any eyewitnesses.

Fault is an important factor in New York car accidents because even though the state uses the no-fault rule for collisions, liability may become relevant if your insurance is not sufficient to cover your damages.

How to Establish That Someone Was Driving While Distracted

It can be challenging to prove that the other driver was distracted, but showing this will be crucial to establish that they are responsible for the accident. The following evidence could help prove their negligence:

Eyewitness reports: If anyone saw the accident and can testify that the other driver was doing something that took their attention or eyes from the road or their hands from the wheel, this can be helpful for your case. Activities like eating, grooming, and talking on the phone could all have been witnessed by pedestrians or other motorists.

Dashcam footage: Many drivers have dashcams that record any time they are operating their vehicle. If you or the at-fault driver have a dashcam, the footage may show that they were not paying attention at the time of the accident.

Phone records: Cell phone records would show that the driver was talking on the phone, opening a text, or sending an email at the time of the accident. These records will help to establish that the other driver was distracted and at fault for the collision.

Contact a New York Accident Attorney

Navigating the claims process is especially difficult after an accident involving a distracted driver. If your car insurance policy is not sufficient to cover the damages caused by the driver or if you have questions about filing a claim against the driver for the injuries you’ve sustained, contact Seitelman Law Offices, P.C. We offer free consultations, so there is no risk in exploring your legal options. Contact us today to schedule your appointment.