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Does Distracted Driving Cause Rear-End Collisions?

May 25, 2020

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Approximately 1.7 million rear-end collisions occur every year in the U.S., causing more than 500,000 injuries. These crashes are common on our roads, and they’re often more than just fender-benders; in 2017, nearly 2,500 people died in rear-end collisions. Meanwhile, the Insurance Information Institute (III) says that distraction is the fifth-leading cause of fatal crashes in the U.S. Is there a connection between the number of rear-end collisions and distracted driving?

Connecting the Dots Between Distraction and Rear-End Collisions

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has said that approximately 87% of rear-end collisions involve driver distraction. One study found that distraction was a factor in more than three-quarters of rear-end collisions involving teens. Another study found that states that banned the use of handheld devices by drivers in moving vehicles saw a subsequent decrease in the number of rear-end collisions. We’re now far more dependent on mobile devices as a society than we’ve ever been. As of 2019, 81% of Americans own a smartphone, and 96% own some kind of cellphone. In other words, it’s vital we take the threat of distraction seriously to avoid not just rear-end collisions, but all the other types of crashes that distraction causes.

The Consequences of Rear-End Collisions

Rear-end collisions can be devastating, leaving vehicles destroyed and lives upended. Some of the most common injuries in rear-end collisions include:
  • Traumatic brain injuries (TBIs)
  • Complex fractures, including broken hips, knees, ankles, and wrists
  • Spinal cord injuries
  • Neck and back injuries
  • Whiplash
In addition to these injuries, rear-end crashes can also cause property damage, time missed at work while recovering from injuries, and an incredible amount of emotional trauma.

Preventing Rear-End Collisions (and Distracted Driving)

When buying a vehicle, consider looking for one equipped with collision-avoidance systems. The National Transportation Safety Board has long suggested that the government require the inclusion of collision avoidance systems in all new vehicles, estimating that they would reduce the number of injuries and deaths related to rear-end collisions by 80%. Since the law requiring all vehicles manufactured in and post-Model Year 2018 to come equipped with backup cameras, the number of backover accidents has seen a dramatic reduction. When you’re behind the wheel, remember these tips to reduce your risk of a rear-end collision:

Keep a three-second following distance.

Make a habit of leaving three seconds worth of distance between your vehicle and the one in front of you. Choose a fixed point on the road and note the time it takes the car in front of you to reach that point versus how long it takes you. After doing this exercise a few times, you’ll start doing it intuitively. It only takes a momentary distraction, such as glancing out the driver’s-side window, to cause a rear-end collision. Increasing your following distance can give you more time to respond if the car ahead stops unexpectedly.

Leave even more space if conditions are hazardous.

When weather is bad, visibility is low, or traffic is heavy, a greater following distance might be needed. When in doubt, leave more space.

When coming to a stop, leave space to navigate.

Whether you come to a stop sign or traffic light, make sure you don’t box yourself in by leaving too little space between your vehicle and the one in front you. This will give you the chance to pull to the side of the road or change lanes if needed.

Be predictable and make your intentions clear.

Avoid quickly accelerating or braking, and always use your turn signals before changing lanes or making a turn. Frequently check your brake lights, headlights, and turn signals to make sure they’re working. This gives other drivers more warning about what you are doing and may help save you from being the victim of a rear-end collision.

Ruthlessly purge distractions.

Distractions are everywhere. Phones send notifications in your vehicle. Other crashes or distracting events might be occurring outside your vehicle. Follow these tips to create as little distraction as possible when you’re driving:
  • Take your phone out of the equation. Place your phone out of reach before you start driving, so you’ll never be tempted by texts, emails, or other distractions.
  • Keep the volume at a sensible level. Whether you’re listening to music, podcasts, or your passengers, make it a priority to keep the volume low enough so you can hear important noises outside your vehicle that indicate you may need to move out of the way, such as sirens, squealing tires, or a revving engine.
  • Make a habit of never eating, drinking, or grooming yourself while driving.
  • If you’re using a navigational system, enter in your destination before you start driving.
  • Avoid speaking on your phone unless it’s an emergency. Even hands-free phone calls can distract drivers, so break the habit of making or receiving calls when you’re behind the wheel.

What to Do If You Get Rear-Ended?

If you’re rear-ended by another driver, call 911 to report the collision and, if you’re hurt, request an ambulance. Calmly ask the driver who hit you for their name and insurance information. Avoid making small talk or speaking at length to the other driver, and never admit fault to them or the responding police officer. After cooperating with the police officer who responds to the scene, seek immediate medical treatment, contact your insurance company, and call an attorney. The sooner you call a lawyer, the more evidence may be available to prove you weren’t at fault.

Nurenberg Paris Helps Injured People Get the Payment They Need

Nurenberg Paris has helped many clients who were injured in rear-end collisions. If you were rear-ended, the police report will often (though not always) show that the other driver was at fault for the crash. But don’t assume this makes your claim a done deal. Insurance companies look for ways to deny people the compensation they deserve, even if it’s clear they weren’t responsible for their crashes. Contact our Cleveland car accident attorneys before you speak to the representative of another driver’s insurance company, so we can make sure you’re getting a fair offer. Contact us at (216) 230-6384 for a free consultation.

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