Impaired driving is one of the greatest risks on the road. In 2017, over 100,000 people were injured as a result of accidents involving drunk drivers in Texas. And in 2018, over 95,000 accidents were caused by distracted drivers on Texas roadways.
At DJC Law, we have met with many clients who have been injured by impaired drivers. These types of cases are always unfortunate because these accidents could have been avoided had the impaired driver been more mindful of their physical and mental state or paid attention to the road. We believe that we all have a duty to make the roads safer, so we’ve created this blog post to bring awareness to the risks, consequences, and solutions of impaired driving.
The 4 Ds of Distracted Driving
Impaired driving doesn’t have a singular cause. Anything that prevents a driver from thinking clearly and responding quickly can be the cause of driver impairment. Traffic experts have categorized and labeled the most common causes as the 4 Ds of impaired driving.
Solution: Get Enough Sleep to Avoid Drowsy Driving
Drowsy driving can have many causes—illness or prescription drug use among them, but lack of sleep is the primary reason people get drowsy behind the wheel and end up losing control. A tired driver can not only fall asleep, but he or she will also exercise poor judgment.
Try not to drive long distances without a full night’s rest. If your trip is especially long, then break up the trip into two days and sleep in a motel. If you are visiting distant family, then spending the night and leaving early in the morning is your best bet.
Avoid trying to counteract fatigue with caffeine. Although this works as a short-term fix, it really does nothing to address the underlying fatigue. Many drivers will end up feeling even more tired after a couple of cups of coffee and will fall asleep shortly thereafter.
Solution: Put Away Your Phone to Reduce Distracted Driving
There are many sources of distraction, including:
- Young children
- Eating food
- Using a GPS device
But the largest source of distraction is, by far, your phone. Too many people text or email when their vehicle is moving and they should have their eyes on the road.
To protect yourself, put the phone somewhere where you can’t reach it. Ideally, you can lock it in the trunk of the car—which makes it inaccessible, but only after you have stopped the vehicle. If you put the phone in your glove compartment box, by contrast, we are afraid many people will still be tempted to reach over and grab it while driving.
Solution: Be Careful of Prescription and Over-the-Counter Drugs
Many drugs induce sleepiness as a side effect, sometimes when taken in combination with other drugs. Always read the label to see if drowsiness is a side effect. If so, try to limit your driving while taking the drug. Instead, you can take public transportation or hire an Uber or Lyft.
Solution: Have a Designated Driver
Drunk driving is still a serious problem. Although distracted driving now gets most of the media’s attention, alcohol continues to cause over 1,000 fatalities in Texas each year.
Drunk driving is easily avoidable. Make sure that if you are going out to drink that you designate a driver who will remain sober for the entire night. If you are going out alone, ask someone to get you a cab.
Remember not to falsely believe that drinking alcohol is no big deal if you are eating a meal. Many people end up showing signs of impairment well before they believe they have a problem.
Risks of Impaired Driving
It’s not surprising that impaired driving increases a person’s risk of causing an accident. Common types of accidents caused by impaired drivers include rear-end collisions and side-impact collisions.
Impaired driving is also one of the main causes of one particularly deadly type of accident— wrong-way crashes.
According to a comprehensive study performed by the Illinois Center for Transportation, driving “under the influence of alcohol” is the largest contributing factor in fatal wrong-way crashes. The next most-cited contributing factor was insufficient road lighting at night.
Another survey conducted by Texas A&M University (TAMU) indicated wrong-way crashes were more likely to occur during overnight and early-morning hours than other kinds of motor vehicle accidents. Specifically, wrong-way crashes were most likely to occur between 2 a.m. and 3.a.m, the time period that “corresponds to the closing time of most Texas bars.” Indeed, the TAMU researchers found that approximately 61 percent of drivers who caused wrong-way crashes “had some influence of alcohol and/or drugs by the investigating officer.”
As for the impact of wrong-way crashes, the data gathered by TAMU found that about half of such accidents “resulted in an incapacitating injury or fatality.” This casualty rate was “significantly higher” than the Texas statewide average for other categories of accidents.
A Modern Solution for Distracted Driving
Thanks to advanced science and technology, we have fast and accurate methods for testing if a driver is impaired by drugs or alcohol. To check your blood alcohol content (BAC), police officers may pull you over and have you perform a Breathalyzer test, and a blood test will reveal the presence of any illicit substance.
However, the process of testing for one of the deadliest types of impaired driving, distracted driving, isn’t so simple. Right now, the only way in which a police officer can legally find out if a driver has been using their phone is to download the data, and this requires a search warrant. Making the process lengthy and the offender difficult to prosecute.
Texting while driving is a huge issue across the country. Even though 48 states have banned this activity, drivers still continue to do it. Many drivers admit to texting, using social media, and taking selfies while driving, and the statistics show it. Traffic fatalities caused by distracted drivers rose eight percent in 2015.
States have struggled to keep texting and driving under control. Public service announcements have done little to curb drivers from using their phones.
Legislators have had enough, and they’re on board with a novel idea: Treat texting and driving like drunk driving. Drunkenness can be analyzed by a Breathalyzer test, so it has been proposed that phone use should be analyzed in the same way. Enter the Textalyzer.
What is a Textalyzer?
The Textalyzer is a tablet-sized device that can track a driver’s cell phone use after an accident. Police officers can use a Textalyzer to see if the driver was using their phone when the accident occurred. It downloads information from the phone to see what apps the driver used. It also tracks every tap, click, and swipe made from the driver, so officers can see if the driver texted, emailed, used the Internet, or went on an app.
Legislators are hoping the Textalyzer will crackdown on texting. Lawmakers in New York are already on board with the idea. Opponents, however, see the device as an invasion of privacy. They are under the impression that police officers will be looking at your personal data.
However, employees at Cellebrite, the company that makes the Textalyzer, say that’s not true. Officers will be able to see what apps you accessed and at what time, but they will not be able to open your texts and see the messages and to whom they were sent. The focus is on the swipes and touches.
Lawmakers suggest that the Textalyzer test be granted similar provisions as the Breathalyzer test. Meaning that, if the officer asks you to hand over your phone, and you refuse to do so, you could have your license suspended. Proponents claim that not only will this simplify the current process, but also discourage the use of a cell phone while driving.
Hurt by an Impaired Driver? Contact an Austin Car Accident Attorney
Serious car collisions warrant serious legal help. At DJC Law, we have built our reputation representing injured car accident clients. We have the legal experience necessary to obtain full compensation for your losses, with hundreds of happy clients.
To schedule a free case review, please call 512-888-9999.