21 Feb, 2022

Is Distracted Driving Negligence?

Author Todd A. Strong
is distracted driving negligence

Distracted driving may be considered negligence, depending on the type of distraction, the law of the state in which the accident occurred, and the circumstances of the accident. In a state like Illinois, where texting while driving is illegal, distracted driving may be negligent driving if the distracted driver who caused the accident and injuries was texting or using a cellphone at the time. A car accident attorney can help a victim of a distracted driving car accident understand his or her rights and whether the distracted driver who caused the accident committed negligence.

is distracted driving negligence

Distracted driving may be considered negligence, depending on the type of distraction, the law of the state in which the accident occurred, and the circumstances of the accident. In a state like Illinois, where texting while driving is illegal, distracted driving may be negligent driving if the distracted driver who caused the accident and injuries was texting or using a cellphone at the time. A car accident attorney can help a victim of a distracted driving car accident understand his or her rights and whether the distracted driver who caused the accident committed negligence.

What Are the Three Types of Distracted Driving

There are 3 types of distracted driving: visual, manual, and cognitive. Each type of distracted driving carries risks, and some activities can be especially hazardous because the activity involves more than one type at a time.

Visual Distractions

Visual distractions are activities that cause the driver to cease looking out of the windshield or paying attention to where he or she is going. Examples of activities in the visual category of distractions are watching YouTube videos, reading a text or social media post, searching for something in a purse, or looking into the mirror to groom hair while driving.

Manual Distractions

Manual distractions are those activities that require the driver to physically take one or both hands off the wheel. Manual distractions include a driver picking up a cellphone to answer or send a call or text, picking up or opening a beverage, or eating food while driving.

Cognitive Distractions

Cognitive distractions are distractions that mentally take the driver away from the task of driving. Cognitive distractions include mental preoccupation on errands or tasks that the driver needs to complete, speaking to passengers, talking on the phone, listening to music, and the cognitive act of reading and responding to emails or text messages.

Activities that Involve Multiple Types of Distracted Driving

Activities such as texting, sending emails, talking on the phone, and personal grooming involve two or more types of distractions. As such, these and other, similar activities carry a higher risk of causing a distracted driving accident.

Sending a text message, for example, requires the driver (1) to visually look away from the road, (2) to physically remove one or both hands off the wheel to pick up the phone and type, and (3) to think about the text message that he or she received and what he or she might send in reply. The driver’s response time is impaired because the driver is visually and mentally unaware of what is happening in front of the car (e.g., whether the car is veering into the oncoming traffic lane) for however long he or she is reading and writing the text messages, and, in either case, he or she has one or no hands on the wheel with which to maneuver the vehicle. For these reasons, states such as Illinois have banned the use of cell phones while driving.

Proving Negligence When Injured by a Distracted Driver

Negligence is a legal theory by which victims may recover for harms done to them under civil law. In this context, “civil” means illegal acts that are part of a civil lawsuit brought by the injured party, rather than a criminal charge or lawsuit brought by prosecutors. There are circumstances in which illegal acts can be both criminal and civil in nature, such as in car accident cases. A car accident lawyer represents victims of car accidents, such as those accidents caused by distracted driving.

Two Types of Negligence

Negligence has four parts: duty, breach of duty, causation, and injury. There are two general types of negligence: (1) negligence and (2) negligence per se.

In the context of distracted driving, negligence may operate as follows: Driver A owes other drivers, such as Driver B, a duty to act reasonably and responsibly while driving. If Driver A is texting while driving in Illinois and causes an accident with Driver B, Driver A breaches that duty. If Driver B is injured or Driver B’s car is damaged in the accident caused by Driver A, then Driver B may have a negligence claim against Driver A. To prove his or her case, Driver B might emphasize that texting involves more than one type of distraction, as discussed above, making it especially dangerous to do while driving.

Negligence per se is like the negligence described above; however, in the realm of negligence per se, negligence is generally assumed and the person who caused an accident may be strictly liable if he or she was breaking a law at the time and caused an injury to someone whom the law serves to protect. In the example above, for instance, Driver A might be negligent under the negligence per se standard because it is illegal to text while drive in Illinois. Further, Driver B is a driver, e.g., a member of the population that the no texting while driving law serves to protect.

Under the negligence per se standard, victims of car crashes may have less of a burden of proof if they can show that the at-fault driver broke a law, and that the victim is part of the population intended to be protected by the law. The duty owed by Driver A is to follow the law, and the breach is the breaking of the law while driving. The victim may then prove damages and that the driver caused the damages.

When to Hire a Distracted Driving Attorney

Victims of car accidents are encouraged to get a lawyer after an auto accident after receiving appropriate emergency medical care. Getting a distracted driving attorney can help set victims up for a successful case because these types of attorneys typically are better equipped to have investigations done of the crash scene. These types of investigations can uncover evidence that may not otherwise be available to the victim, such as truck logbooks.

About The Author

Photo of Todd A. Strong
Illinois workers’ compensation and personal injury lawyer Todd A. Strong is the founder of Strong Law Offices in Peoria, Illinois. Todd brings considerable legal knowledge, experience, and skill to the table to ensure injured victims throughout the state are treated with respect, dignity, and fairness.