Why are Fatalities from Distracted Driving on the Rise?

Every year, thousands of people across the country are injured in car accidents by distracted drivers. Studies have shown the number one cause of distracted driving is cell phone use. As cell phone technology advances, so too does the risk of distracted driving. The Illinois State Police Department estimates the use of a cell phone while driving increases the chance of getting into a car accident by 400 percent. According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, in 2015 alone, approximately 3,477 people in the U.S. died in crashes that involved a distracted driver, and 391,000 people were injured. Here in Illinois, there were over 1,000 fatal crashes in 2017. This trend seems only to be continuing. In the month of January, 2018, there had already been over 60 fatal crashes with 66 fatalities in Illinois.  

A recent study by Zendrive found that, out of the 3 million drivers polled, 88 percent used their cell phones while driving. The average phone use of the drivers polled was 3.5 minutes per hour of driving. But it only takes a moment for tragedy to occur. Just a two second distraction increases the likelihood of getting in an accident by 20 percent.

A 2013 study by the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) revealed that the City of Chicago had the highest driver electronic device use in the state with 17.6 percent of drivers observed to have used their cell phone while driving, followed by the suburban counties at 12.6 percent of drivers observed. The study found female drivers to have a slightly higher percentage of use (13.9 percent) when it comes to electronic device use while driving, compared to their male driver counterparts (10.2 percent). Following the 2013 study, legislation was passed in Illinois that made it illegal to use hand-held devices while driving. Under the law, drivers can use hands-free technology to conduct telephone conversations. If a driver does not have a hands-free device, the driver may not use their cell phone except in cases of emergencies. Since the 2013 study, a subsequent study by IDOT in 2015 revealed that electronic device use had decreased significantly since the law had taken effect, with the City of Chicago having driver electronic device use at 12.9 percent, and the suburban counties at 7.8 percent.

A recent article pointed out that, even though deaths from car accidents are on the rise nationally, only about half of all fatal crashes are tied to known cell phone use. Many states still don’t have a section for police officers to report cell phone use as a cause of the collision. However, Illinois’ Traffic Crash Report does contain a section where a police officer can list texting, cell phone use other than texting, and distraction from an electronic device as contributory causes of a motor vehicle accident. However, police officers have a difficult time establishing that a driver’s cell phone use was, in fact, a cause of a collision. The law does not allow officers to search a cell phone upon a suspicion of cell phone use while driving. Peru’s Police Chief, Doug Bernabei, noted the limitations by stating, “You have to have their consent, or you have to have a search warrant. In practical terms, you’re not going to do that for most accidents.”

A skillful attorney representing an injured client can legally discover whether the at-fault driver was texting prior to the accident, though discovery methods such as issuing a subpoena to the driver’s cell phone company. Discovering whether a driver was on their cell phone at the time of the crash can be important for many reasons, such as obtaining punitive damages. See our blog post here on how distracted drivers on cell phones can become liable for punitive damages and our page here on car accidents overall.

Injuries resulting from distracted drivers can be catastrophic, and medical expenses to treat the injuries are costly. The cost of obtaining medical treatment for injuries sustained in a car accident can quickly add up. The National Safety Council estimates that each traffic crash fatality will cost $1,542,000 on average, an incapacitating injury will usually cost $90,000, and a non-incapacitating injury will run you $26,000. In Illinois, the total estimated cost of car crashes for 2015 was $7.4 billion. The ever-increasing cost of medical treatment only adds to the problem.

If you or a loved one has been injured by driver who was texting or otherwise using their phone while driving, contact car accident attorney John Malm at John J. Malm & Associates to learn more about how you may be entitled to receive compensation for your injuries.