Distracted driving has become an urgent national concern. A driver talking on a cell phone while driving can be as dangerous as a drunk driver, and the resulting Vancouver car accident can be just as deadly. An estimated 25 percent of the car accident fatalities in British Columbia between the years of 2009 and 2013 involved distracted drivers. In addition, an average of 12 people each year are killed on Vancouver Island in distracted driving accidents, according to the Times Colonist.
In an effort to improve road safety and reduce the number of distracted driving accidents, the BC government is considering tougher restrictions and harsher penalties for drivers who engage in the distracted driving behaviours. The hope is that a government crackdown would bring a sharp drop in the number of car accidents involving distracted drivers. Of course, drivers can also take action on their own to manage common driver distractions and reduce risk to self and others. An alert and aware driver is far less likely to be involved in a serious or fatal collision.
Since 2008, every Canadian province and territory except Nunavut has restricted the use of handheld cell phones by drivers to reduce the rate of impaired driving, according to the CBC. Although the rules vary from province to province, drivers who violate them face fines, demerit points and other penalties.
Cell phones are only one source of distracted driving accidents, a problem that grows with each passing year. About 4 million North American car accidents – or eight out of every 10 accidents – involve driver distraction each year, according to the Insurance Bureau of Canada.
Risks of Distracted Driving
One of the pitfalls of living in a technology-driven society is the constant desire to remain connected at all times, and the belief that it is necessary to multi-task. These days it’s a rare moment indeed when people are completely free of the distraction of computers, tablets, smartphones, or an electronic device in general. Even when people are traveling, family, friends and co-workers often expect them to have a cellphone close to check emails and text messages. Many people also eat or drink while driving to save time.
Distractions may be fine when you are at work or home. But it’s dangerous to multi-task, text, talk on a cellphone, eat, groom, or engage in other distractions while driving. That conduct greatly increases your chances of being involved in a deadly car accident. Driving requires visual, manual and cognitive attention. Even when a driver takes only a few seconds to glance down at his or her phone, that short distraction can have a terrible result.
The focus on handheld cell phone use by drivers is valuable to protect public health. But it also can mislead drivers into thinking that handheld devices are the only way to become distracted behind the wheel. In fact, hands free devices and any activity inside or outside a vehicle can distract a driver’s attention and cause a crash.
Distractions reduce a driver’s ability to drive safely in three main ways:
- Visual distractions take a driver’s eyes off the road, causing the driver to miss signals and potential hazards.
- Manual distractions take a driver’s hands away from the wheel, making it harder to safely control the vehicle.
- Cognitive distractions take a driver’s mind off the road, reducing the driver’s ability to identify potential obstacles and hazards in time to avoid a crash.
The safest driving occurs when all three faculties – eyes, hands, and mind – remain on the task of driving.
Distracted Driving Fines in BC
In an effort to get feedback from the public on how existing restrictions and penalties should be changed, a discussion was initiated on the BC’s distracted driving consultation website. What this discussion revealed was that most people in BC believe the existing penalties for drivers that are distracted are too low to be effective in deterring this reckless behaviuor.
BC apparently has one of the lowest distracted driving fines in Canada, with drivers currently only facing penalties for the use of a hand-held device. These penalties include a $167 fine and the possibility of three demerit points on a driving record. If the fine for distracted driving can be increased to at least $200, or as high as $750, drivers may not be as willing to engage in activities that distract them from the task of driving.
Vehicle impoundment is one penalty being looked at by the BC government in instances where drivers are found to have been texting or talking on a cellphone while operating a vehicle. Another proposal involves roadside license suspensions, such as those given to alleged drunk or drug-impaired drivers.
Distracted Driving Accident Injuries
When one motorist becomes distracted, another driver, a passenger, a bicyclist or a pedestrian may pay the price. Injuries in a distracted driving crash can be severe, including:
- Brain and spinal cord injuries
- Whiplash injuries and other soft tissue injuries
- Nerve and muscle damage
- Damage to organs and soft tissues, including internal bleeding
- Broken bones
- Crush injuries and amputations
- “Road burn” injuries to skin
Damages in Distracted Driving Accidents
If you are hurt in a distracted driving accident, you may be eligible for compensation from the driver at fault. Here are some common types of damages that may be awarded following this type of accident:
- Compensatory damages for medical and hospital bills, medication and medical equipment costs, therapy and rehabilitation bills, lost wages and property damage.
- Damages for pain and suffering related to the accident and injuries. In the case of a fatal accident, damages also may be available for the loss of a loved one’s care and companionship.
- Punitive damages to punish egregious wrongdoing and send a message that extremely bad behaviour will not be tolerated. However, punitive damages are not available in all cases.
Contact an Experienced Distracted Driving Lawyer Today
Distracted driving accidents are entirely avoidable. Every driver has a responsibility to do his or her part to protect others and focus on the road. When a driver ignores this responsibility and you or someone you love is injured, don’t wait: Contact the experienced lawyers at Klein Lawyers.
Our law firm works as a team to pursue the compensation each of our clients deserves. Your initial consultation on your distracted driver or driver fatigue accident is free and confidential.