Distracted driving has become a leading cause of deadly and injurious accidents in Minnesota, and it may be growing into an even more prevalent problem.
In 2013, distracted driving claimed the lives of 3,154 people and injured about 424,000 people throughout the U.S., according to the government website Distraction.gov. Many people in Woodbury are well aware of the toll that this reckless habit takes and the danger that it places other drivers in. Unfortunately, though, statistics show that distracted driving is only becoming more common in Minnesota and accounting for an increasing number of accidents.
A top cause of accidents
CBS News reports that driver distraction has become one of the most common factors in serious Minnesota car accidents. State officials have identified it as the leading cause of crashes that result in injury or property damage. Furthermore, distracted driving has outstripped alcohol as a factor in fatal accidents. It now represents one of the three most common causes of these crashes.
The Minnesota Department of Public Safety states that distracted driving plays a role in about one in four crashes in the state during an average year. The same source conservatively estimates that these crashes claim the lives of about 70 people and cause 350 serious personal injuries each year.
The issue of underreporting
These findings are especially troubling because distracted driving is notoriously underreported as a cause of accidents. The National Safety Council explains that this may occur for the following reasons:
- At-fault drivers may decline to tell authorities what they were doing at the time of an accident.
- In catastrophic accidents, there may be no surviving witnesses to report that distracted driving was a factor.
- If authorities can readily establish other contributing factors, such as driver intoxication, they may decline to investigate whether distraction played a role in an accident.
These findings suggest that distracted driving might be an even more prevalent problem in Minnesota than the existing data indicates.
Rising accident rates
Sadly, national data suggests that distracted driving is only becoming a more serious issue. According to Newsweek, experts have pointed to this negligent habit as a potential reason for the rise in injurious or deadly car accidents observed in most U.S. states, including Minnesota, in early 2015.
From the first six months of 2014 to the same period during 2015, car accident-related injuries and fatalities rose markedly across the U.S. Fatalities increased 14 percent, while injuries jumped an alarming 30 percent. Since deaths per person and per mile traveled also increased, experts believe that dangerous driver behaviors, including inattention, may be behind this uptick in accidents.
Holding inattentive drivers responsible
Legal remedies may be available to people who have been hurt in serious crashes that involved distracted or negligent drivers. In Minnesota, accident victims generally must make claims against their own insurance policies, regardless of who was at fault. However, if a crash resulted in significant medical expenses, disfigurement, short-term disablement or permanent injury, victims may be able to seek damages from the at-fault driver. To further evaluate this option, victims may want to consider consulting with an attorney.