Because we hear so much about vehicle crashes caused by drivers under the influence of alcohol or drugs, it can be a surprise to learn that drunk and drugged driving is not the leading cause car wrecks. In fact, driving under the influence (DUI) isn’t even the second. The number one cause of vehicle crashes in the U.S. is distracted driving.
Distracted driving is the more realistic way to describe the American habit of “multi-tasking” while driving: talking on the phone, eating, texting, fixing hair and makeup, and even reading the newspaper are some ways we get in trouble behind the wheel. These days, smartphones and other handheld devices are responsible for a lot of distraction: when drivers use them while driving, they are four times as likely to have a car crash than drivers who keep their hands on the wheel and their minds, and eyes, on the road.
A study by the University of Southern California (USC)’s Annenberg Center for the Digital Future found that the majority of respondents (87 percent) said that messaging while driving is unsafe. However, more than one out of five admitted that they send or check texts while driving. It’s illegal in most states, but that doesn’t keep some of us from indulging in this bad habit.
Americans love speed and efficiency as much as we love multi-tasking. According to drivers.com, “drive-thrus, ATMs, and corner stores are just some examples of our need for speed.” Speeding while driving is the second leading cause of vehicle crashes today, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation. Driving at dangerous speeds contributes to about a third of crashes.
Holder of the bronze medal, as mentioned above, is DUI, which is the third-leading cause of vehicle crashes. Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) estimates that 300,000 incidents of drunk driving occur daily, resulting in almost 10,000 deaths a year and almost 300,000 injuries. By MADD’s estimates, about one-third of people arrested for drunk driving are repeat offenders, and the average offender drives drunk 80 times before that first arrest. Clearly, this is a significant problem, made worse by the fact that it is completely preventable.
When we talk about driving under the influence of drugs, the other “DUI,” the image that comes to mind may be that of reckless users of illegal substances like heroin, cocaine, meth or marijuana. But a nationwide study of fatal crashes in 2010 found that 46.5 percent of drivers who tested positive for drugs were using a prescription drug. Prescription or recreational, though, we have to remember that our medications can impair our driving abilities.
If you have been injured in a DUI, you need to know that you may be entitled to a type of damage award that is rarely available in other car crash cases. Punitive damages, intended not to compensate the injured person for damages incurred, but to punish the person who caused the injury for committing an outrageous act – and to discourage a repeat, sometimes can be larger, and even much larger, than the compensatory damages normally available in these cases. (Because of the potential for punitive damages, DUI can greatly enhance the value of a case and even make it worthwhile to bring a claim that would otherwise not be worth pursuing.)
Other major causes of crashes include maintenance failure or defective parts that cause the vehicle to malfunction—think of all of the recalls by automakers and tire manufacturers in recent years. Proper vehicle maintenance can make a big difference in preventing crashes, so be sure to regularly check your brakes, tires and lights.
Ken Crosson is the owner and lead attorney of the Crosson Law Group, a personal injury and business litigation law firm in Marietta, Georgia, serving the entire Atlanta metropolitan area and surrounding counties. The Crosson Law Group team is ready to help you and your family recover when you have suffered a serious injury. Call (678) 909-0770 or contact us via email today to schedule a free case evaluation.