Distracted drivers are a major hazard to Colorado motorists. Thousands of people are injured and many killed on Colorado roads as a result of distracted driving every year. What is a distracted driver? Take a look around next time you are driving and they are easy to spot. Here’s a short list of activities performed while driving that makes the roads dangerous for everyone:
- Talking on a cell phone
- Sending a text message (Illegal in Colorado)
- Putting on makeup
- Looking for a CD
- Searching the floor for a dropped giant burrito
- Programming the navigation system
I have had cases involving several of the above activities. It may sound amusing that someone is distracted because they are looking and feeling around the floor of their car for a monster burrito. It was anything but funny when that person rear ended the back of my client’s car on Colfax Avenue in Denver.
According to a September 2009 National Highway Traffic Safety Administration report, in 2008, 5870 people died and approximately 515,000 people were injured in crashes in which some form of driver distraction was cited on the police report. These are only the reported numbers. The magnitude of the problem is likely much greater.
When a driver takes their eyes or attention off the road, even momentarily, they put their lives and the lives of others in danger. Teenagers talking and texting is the largest group of offenders. Regular folks who don’t think they are being careless or negligent risk their safety and ours when they dial or make phone calls when driving.
Think speaking on a cell phone while driving is O.K. because everyone does it? Probably not. Some courts in Colorado have allowed punitive damages when it is shown that a person was speaking on a cell phone at the time of an accident. In a personal injury case one of the things competent trial lawyers investigate is whether the negligent driver was distracted by using a cell phone or texting. We subpoena the wireless provider records if necessary. Is a person who runs a red light because they are texting and crashes into a family injuring or killing guilty of reckless driving? Are these drivers subject to punitive or exemplary damages for reckless behavior? Juries are now being asked to consider the question.