Did you know that texting while driving is not necessarily illegal in Colorado? The Colorado state senate in January 2018 voted down a bill that would ban the use of cell phones while driving, despite the impassioned and often tragic testimony of citizens whose loved ones had died in car crashes with distracted drivers. While there are fines for texting while driving in Colorado, a driver can be punished only when texting is done in a “careless or imprudent manner.” It is, however, illegal for minors to use cell phones while driving.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 10% of all fatal crashes nationwide, and 15% of crashes involving injuries were the result of distracted driving in 2015. Distracted driving incidents decreased slightly in 2016 but still accounted for a significant number of crashes resulting in death or serious injuries. The NHTSA divides distracted driving into three categories: Manual distractions, in which the driver’s hands leave the steering wheel, visual distractions, in which the driver’s attention leaves the road, and cognitive distractions, in which the driver’s attention is diverted. Texting or sending emails while driving, of course, involves all three types of distractions. Other activities that often distract drivers are eating, putting on makeup, fixing one’s hair, and taking selfies. Drivers can be distracted by loud music on the radio, and by conversations on the phone or with passengers. Ironically, accidents are often caused when drivers take their attention off the road in order to look at the aftermath of a previous accident.
HOW CAN I PROVE THE DRIVER WHO HIT ME WAS DISTRACTED?
After an accident, police, and insurance investigators will search for evidence to explain how the accident happened and who was at fault. Police investigations, while helpful, are often less thorough than those done by private investigators, especially if the accident is deemed “minor” by the police. After an accident in which you or a loved one has been injured, it is important that you have access to all available evidence. A Colorado Springs car accident attorney can call a team of investigators to the scene before vital evidence is destroyed. Evidence that may indicate distracted driving might include:
Eyewitnesses: Witnesses may have seen the driver using a phone, looking at a passenger, or looking at something on the side of the road prior to the accident. A witness may even notice that the driver was not completely visible prior to the accident, suggesting that the driver may have dropped something in the car. Often, witnesses will report that the vehicle was moving erratically, another indication that the driver was either distracted or perhaps under the influence of alcohol.
Physical evidence: Skid marks on the road can help establish the speed of a vehicle, and at what point the driver applied the brakes. Objects found in the driver’s car may indicate what the driver was doing before the accident. Partially eaten food, make-up brushes, and even open books or magazines, together with witness testimony, may help prove that the driver’s attention was somewhere other than on the road.
Cell phone evidence: Cell phones can provide a wealth of information after an accident. That text the driver sent right before the accident may still be available, even after being deleted from his phone. Any emails sent or received will be time-stamped, as will posts on social media. All of these can show that the driver’s attention was somewhere other than on the road. Even photos taken by passengers may reveal important information about what was going on in the car before an accident.
Social media: It is amazing what some people will post on social media. People have been known to admit all kinds of reckless and even criminal behavior on social media, believing, perhaps, that “nobody important will see it.” The reality is, everyone can see it, and those damaging posts can be used to prove your case.
DOES DISTRACTED DRIVING AUTOMATICALLY INDICATE FAULT?
Proving that a driver was distracted prior to an accident is the first, but not only, step in proving fault. In a lawsuit against a distracted driver for injuries sustained in an accident, you must show not only that the driver was distracted, but that the distraction was the proximate cause of the accident. For example, even if a driver is talking or texting on her phone, the accident may have been caused by something unavoidable, like an animal darting into the road, or an object falling from a truck. It is also possible that the source of the distraction was something beyond the driver’s control. Perhaps he took his hands off the wheel after being frightened by a wasp or spider in the car. In some cases, what appears to be impairment or distraction is actually a sudden illness. Nevertheless, once it can be shown that the driver was distracted, the driver must show that the distraction was out of his control.
THE ROLE OF AN ACCIDENT ATTORNEY IN A DISTRACTED DRIVING CASE
Immediately after an accident, your attorney will begin identifying and preserving evidence that will be needed to prove your case. This may mean sending a team of accident investigators to the scene of the accident. It may involve collecting cell phone records, searching social media, and interviewing potential witnesses. Time really is of the essence in an auto accident case, as physical evidence like skid marks, tire tracks on road shoulders, and car parts left on the road can be damaged or destroyed within days or even hours. It is always best to interview witnesses as soon after an accident as possible, as their memories will fade over time. Witnesses may even move away and become inaccessible.
Always seek the advice of an experienced car accident law firm if you have been injured in an accident involving a distracted driver. The attorneys at Springs Law Group have successfully represented car accident victims for over a decade, and are passionate about their work. Call us at 719-421-7141 for a free consultation.