Every year, Apple announces the brand new iPhone, and, every year, hundreds of thousands of people buy their first, third, or tenth smartphone. Due to advancements in modern technology, smartphones have quickly become a necessary accessory for people of all ages. In fact, according to Pew Research, it is estimated that approximately 5 billion people own a mobile phone, with half of those being smartphones. That’s quite a statistic!
As useful and convenient as smartphones are, however, they can still pose a great risk to many, especially when it comes to distracted driving. If you’re facing issues relating to a distracted driving accident, whether you were injured or accused of distracted driving, then the Law Firm of W. Shane Jennings can help.
The Severity of Distracted Driving
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, “approximately 9 people are killed and more than 1,000 injured in crashes that are reported to involve a distracted driver” every single day in the United States. A distracted driver is someone who performs an activity that detracts the driver’s ability to focus on the road ahead. But what exactly is “distracted driving”? Would looking away from the road ahead to change the radio station be considered distracted driving?
The Center for Disease Control has pondered this exact thought. According to the CDC, the three main types of “distraction” are visual, manual, and cognitive. Visual distraction is when one stops looking at the road ahead, manual distraction is when one removes his or her hands from the steering wheel, and cognitive distraction is when one lets his or her mind wander while driving.
Texting While Driving: A Trifecta of Distraction
If you think about it, there are many instances where each kind of distraction can result in an accident. Perhaps the driver dropped a water bottle so he quickly looked down at his feet to see where it went, or maybe the driver had to grab a tissue from the back seat so he removed his hands from the wheel. Before the driver knows it, he’s rear-ended the car in front of him.
But there’s one example that combines all three methods of distraction and that, of course, is texting while driving. When you text, you need to look at your phone to read the message you’re responding to [visual distraction]. You also need to use your hand (or hands) to type out the message [manual distraction]. And, finally, you need to think about what to respond with before actually typing out the text message itself [cognitive distraction]. It’s no surprise that the most common type of distracted driving is texting while driving.
How the State of New Mexico Deals with Distracted Driving
In 2014, the state of New Mexico passed a new traffic safety law that specifically targets texting while driving. Statute section 66-7-374 which states, “a person shall not read or view a text message or manually type on a handheld mobile communication device for any purpose while driving a motor vehicle, except to summon medical or other emergency help.” If you notice, the law says “for any purpose,” meaning that drivers aren’t allowed to use their phones, be it to look something up online, change map directions, or respond to a text, while driving. The only legal option is to use handsfree methods, be it through Bluetooth or the vehicle’s own speech command settings.
9 Percent of Fatal Accidents in 2016 Occured Due to Distracted Driving
According to NHTSA, in 2016, nine percent of fatal accidents were reported as distracted-affected crashes. As much as we wish for this number to go down since then, it’s more than likely that the percentage has increased and will continue to increase with each passing year.
Avoiding Distracted Driving
As we become more and more accustomed to texting and using our phones for nearly everything, the act of texting while driving undoubtedly becomes more commonplace. Thankfully, car manufacturers are now including standard features that make it easier for drivers to use hands-free options while driving.
The best way to avoid distracted driving is by removing the option for it. Once in your car, before driving, connect your phone to the car’s Bluetooth (if available) then keep your phone in your pants pocket or in your purse. Many newer cars come with Carplay (for iOS users) and Android Auto (for Android users) which provides drivers with an interface in their vehicle’s infotainment units. By connecting your phone to your car’s interface, you won’t have to worry about checking texts or typing responses as the units can read texts out loud and give you the option to respond via voice text.
Now, not all cars offer these features so it’s always best to play it safe. If you’re driving, don’t think about texting. If you need to use your phone, then pull over to a safe location and park before you use your device. It might sound like too much but it’s always best to play it safe, especially in these situations.
Legal Guidance for Distracted Driving Car Accidents in New Mexico
Let’s say you were part of a car accident and the other driver blames you for what took place. Perhaps the driver says you were on your phone or you were texting but you know, for a fact, that that wasn’t the case. Maybe, to the other driver, it seemed like you were on your phone when in fact you were looking down at the cup holder for a quarter to pay the toll that was coming up. What can you do in this situation?
Section B of New Mexico Traffic Law 66-7-374 makes it very clear that the cell phone cannot be seized by or forfeited to the police in the event of a distracted driving accident or event. Simply put, the device is “not subject to search by a law enforcement officer during a traffic stop.” So, does this extend to car accidents where one driver is blaming the other for distracted driving? This is where things can get a bit complicated.
If you’re facing this situation, it’s in your best interest to speak to an experienced car accident attorney who is well versed in New Mexico traffic law. The Law Firm of W. Shane Jennings provides meticulous, detailed legal aid to drivers in the state of New Mexico. Contact us today for more information.