a young man driving while checking his phone and looking away from the road ahead

Distracted Driving: A Issue Plaguing Our Roads

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.

Sources:

https://crashstats.nhtsa.dot.gov/Api/Public/ViewPublication/812517

https://www.cdc.gov/motorvehiclesafety/distracted_driving/index.html

https://www.pewresearch.org/global/2019/02/05/smartphone-ownership-is-growing-rapidly-around-the-world-but-not-always-equally/

https://law.justia.com/codes/new-mexico/2014/chapter-66/article-7/part-4/section-66-7-374

 

Truck is driving down an empty highway past a mountainous landscape.

Frequently Asked Questions About Truck Accidents

In the course of your time driving, there are many things that can go wrong. Moving violations and collisions are the most common and obvious dangers on the road. There are many other hazards that need to be considered as well. If you’re driving alongside an 18-wheeler, you run the risk of coming into contact with spilling cargo, causing you to crash and possibly become injured. 

Trucking companies can be held liable for these types of crashes, but fighting that fight on your own can be an uphill battle. The Law Office of W. Shane Jennings is here to help in the event of a crash with a semi-truck. There are a lot of things that go into defending you and how semi-truck accidents are handled, so we’ve provided some answers to some of the most frequently asked questions. 

Who oversees the laws for trucking companies?

The FMCSA (Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration) oversees all laws and regulations that involve the commercial truck industry. These regulations force OTR carriers to have some sort of commercial insurance coverage. This is to ensure that owner-operators and commercial truck companies have enough insurance protection to be able to pay for any damages if found liable in the event that an accident can occur. 

What are the most common causes of truck accidents?

Distracted driving is one major cause. Truck drivers are most often found to be distracted by using their GPS unit or when by becoming tired. Another major cause is faulty truck maintenance. All commercial trucking companies are required to document all maintenance records in the case that a truck might break down. 

Who can be held responsible for a truck accident?

Semi-truck accidents most often result in personal injury lawsuits against the driver and trucking company. This includes the truck owner(s) if they differ from the actual driver. In some serious injury cases, insurance companies have gone after the actual truck manufacturer for damages.

Why do I need an attorney for my truck accident claim?

You stand a much better chance of obtaining an appropriate settlement after a commercial motor vehicle accident with the assistance of an experienced truck accident lawyer. A lawyer who represents your interests can level the legal field. 

Protect Your Rights with The Law Office of W. Shane Jennings

 Truck accidents can lead to severe and life-threatening injuries. A car accident can make your world feel as if it’s spinning out of control. The Law Office of W. Shane Jennings is here to provide the guidance to help make it better.  Contact us today to learn about how we can represent you on the road and in all walks of life!

the scene of a severe car accident

The Four Steps to Keep In Mind After a Car Accident Takes Place

As much as we may wish to be the safest drivers possible, accidents can still happen. Perhaps a brief distraction leads to a fender bender or maybe a glare from the sun caused a miscalculation, resulting in a more severe accident. Regardless of the incident, it’s necessary to follow the right steps in order to avoid making a tricky situation more difficult than it has to be.

If you find yourself in a car accident in New Mexico, then the Law Office of W. Shane Jennings can help. Continue reading to learn more about what you should do in the event of a car accident.

First Step: Check Yourself and Your Passenger(s) For Injuries

Before you get out of your car, you must assess your own well-being. If you’re injured, call 911 if you’re able to. If you can’t physically call emergency services, ask someone nearby to do so. If you have any passengers in your vehicle, check their injuries as well. Although a million thoughts may be rushing through your head, you still need to make sure you’re safe. If you’ve suffered from an injury, you need to prioritize the arrival of emergency personnel.

Second Step: Move to a Safe Location and Call the Police

This step also requires several factors in order to fully understand the right decision to make. If your vehicle is causing a hazard and it can move and it is safe to do so, drive to a shoulder or somewhere away from the main road. If your car cannot move, turn off the engine, turn on the hazard lights and leave it where it is, then get yourself and your passengers to safety. Once you’re in a safe location, contact 911. This is necessary no matter the severity of the accident. Everything from fender benders to rollovers necessitates the intervention of the police. This is because the police officer will fill out an accident report as well as document the scene.

Third Step: Exchange Information With the Other Driver (or Drivers)

This is, understandably so, the most awkward and perhaps heated step of the entire process. Let’s say you rear-ended a vehicle on the freeway and you both pull over to the shoulder. Perhaps the driver you hit is irate and they start yelling at you for hitting their car. As difficult as it may sound, it’s necessary to remain calm and collected in these scenarios. Anything you say can be seen as an admission of guilt on your part. Saying “I’m sorry” or “it’s my fault” may feel like the natural reaction but it may lead to further issues. If possible, just exchange information with the other individual. This information includes the full name and contact information, insurance company and policy number, driver’s license and license plate number, the location of the accident, as well as the color, type, and model of the vehicle.

Fourth Step: Do Your Best To Document the Accident

Almost everyone has a camera on his or her smartphone. Use your camera to your advantage and document the scene of the accident. Make sure to also take pictures of the street (skidmarks) or of the weather or traffic. All of this will come in handy in the future and will more-than-likely facilitate your case. Car accidents are very stressful but they can become more stressful if the other party or the insurance company complicate the situation. This is where a car accident lawyer can help.

If you’re in need of legal assistance following a car accident, the Law Firm of W. Shane Jennings can help. Give us a call as soon as your accident takes place (preferably after the fourth step) so we can get to work on your case!