Distracted driving includes anything that takes a driver’s eyes and focus off the road. Driving while distracted is one of the leading causes of accidents in the United States. In fact, the NHTSA found that there were 3,522 fatalities in 2021 caused by distracted driving.
In addition, driving while distracted can expose a driver to both criminal and enhanced civil penalties. If a motor vehicle operated injures another person because they were text messaging, for example, then that driver may face jail time and have to pay double the civil damages.
What Is Distracted Driving?
There are two main types of driving while distracted:
Visual distractions are those that make you look away from the road. Some examples are looking at a GPS device, reading a text message, or looking at others in the car for a time that keeps diverting your attention from the road.
The chances of an accident increase significantly for every second you are distracted. Research has found that five seconds is the average time a person’s eyes are diverted when reading a text message. That is five seconds less to react to dangers or avoid a collision.
In fact, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration states that at 55 mph, if you take your eyes off the road for 5 seconds, you have traveled the equivalent of a football field with your eyes closed. Would you ever close your eyes while driving for five seconds?
Both hands should remain on the steering wheel. Of course, using other controls in the car is impossible without removing one hand from the wheel. When one hand does something other than operating the steering wheel, the driver may be distracted.
In fact, whenever your hands are doing something other than handling the steering wheel, you increase the risk of an accident. This includes adjusting the radio, eating, or reaching for something, or using a handheld device.
With the advent of voice-enabled controls in cars, it is becoming more and more possible to operate the car’s controls without removing your hands to do so.
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New Rules for Hands at 10 and 2?
Nearly every driver has heard the saying that a driver’s hands should be at ten and two. This means that if you picture your steering wheel as a clock face, then your right hand should be where 2 O’clock is and your left hand where 10 O’clock is.
However, this advice is outdated. The NHTSA now recommends that your hands should be at 9 and 3.
A driver should have their hands at 9 and 3 for a few major reasons. First, it provides better control for hand-over-hand steering. In addition, hands at 9 and 3 instead of 10 and 2 most likely reduces major injuries, given the slight bend in your elbows this method allows.
Connecticut Laws on Distracted Driving
Connecticut has several laws that prohibit and penalize distracted driving, from serious criminal charges to enhanced civil penalties.
These laws are designed to punish and deter distracted driving, especially texting driving while driving.
One example of Connecticut’s criminal and motor vehicle statutes is Connecticut General Statutes § 14-296aa. This law prohibits the use of small electronic devices while driving. This includes things like texting, using a GPS, or talking on the phone.
The fine ranges from $100 to $300 for the first offense, and for future offenses within two years, it goes up to $600. Repeat offenders can get fined or even have their licenses taken away.
If a person injures another while driving distracted, then the penalties become much more severe. Some examples of criminal charges that may apply are Misconduct with a Motor Vehicle, Manslaughter with a Motor Vehicle, and Negligent Homicide with a Motor Vehicle.
Injuring someone while driving distracted also exposes a driver to enhanced civil penalties. If a person is found to have been driving recklessly, for example, by text messaging, and that causes another’s injuries, then the injured person may receive statutory and punitive damages.
Connecticut General Statutes § 14-222 defines reckless driving as moving “at a speed or in any way that endangers the life of any person other than the operator” or “at a rate of speed that endangers the life of any person other than the operator.”
In these cases, the law allows for damages to be doubled or even tripled in certain situations. The main purpose of double and treble (triple) damages is to punish the offender for being reckless and discourage similar behavior.
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What Is Recklessness?
Negligence is the standard for most motor vehicle accidents. However, when one’s actions while driving are more than mere negligence, the law may apply a recklessness standard. Simply put, reckless conduct is worse than negligent conduct.
Recklessness is defined by statutes (laws passed by legislators) and common law (laws created over a long period by courts and judges).
A good example of recklessness is a person driving on a sidewalk with people around. Such a driver would be aware of the significant risk to pedestrians and is willfully ignoring that risk by driving on a sidewalk.
An example of statutory recklessness is Connecticut General Statutes Section 14-222 – a law that states that recklessness is driving in a way that puts anyone’s life in danger besides the driver or at a speed that puts anyone’s life in danger besides the driver.
Under Statutory Recklessness, a person may be forced to pay double or triple the amount of damages, which is most likely not covered by the personal automobile liability insurance policy.
Common Law Recklessness
Common law recklessness is based on decisions made by the courts and legal rules that have been set up over time. Common law recklessness usually means a defendant’s willful and careless disregard for the safety of others.
Under common law, if a defendant is found to have been careless, he or she may have to pay both compensatory and punitive losses.
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Tips to Avoid Distracted Driving
Follow these tips to stay focused on the road:
- Before you start driving, you should know the path, set up your GPS, adjust your seat and mirrors, and make any necessary phone calls.
- Turn off your phone: Put your phone on silent mode or use the “Do Not Disturb” feature so that incoming calls or texts don’t distract you as much. Stop somewhere safe if you need to use your phone.
- Limit your contact with other passengers. Talking to other people can be fun, but it can also be distracting. Keep things light, and don’t get too deep into talks.
- Don’t try to do more than one thing at once. Pay attention while driving, and don’t eat, drink, or do other things that need your full attention.
- Keep your eyes on the road. Look at the road in front of you and in your mirrors often to stay aware of your surroundings and be ready for any possible dangers.
Following these tips may significantly decrease the risk of getting into an auto accident.
If you have questions about distracted driving accidents in Connecticut, then contact the personal injury attorneys at Injuredct.com at 855.CT.Legal.