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Determining if distraction contributed to a car accident

Did you know that hundreds of thousands of drivers have been injured in accidents involved a distracted driver? In just one year, according to the most recent reports from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 391,000 people were injured in a crash with a distracted driver; nearly 3,500 people were killed.

These numbers paint a troubling picture of how common it is for people to drive while distracted. That said, it can be a challenge to prove that a person was distracted at the time of an accident. However, it is not impossible.

To begin with, understand that there are many types of distracted driving. Perhaps the most dangerous type of distraction is using a cellphone while driving. Handheld phone use while driving is undoubtedly unsafe (and illegal in Illinois), but so are other forms of distraction, including:

  • Eating 
  • Grooming
  • Using a GPS or in-dash infotainment system
  • Reaching for something in the passenger or backseat
  • Having several passengers in the car
  • Experiencing significant emotional distress, like anger or sadness

These behaviors can take a person's eyes and attention of the road and hands off the wheel. 

To determine if a driver was engaged in these or other distracting behaviors after an accident, victims -- with the help of their attorneys -- can look in the following places.

  • Cellphone records
  • Surveillance video from dashboard cameras or other cameras in the area
  • Witness statements, photos or recordings
  • Data from the car to show braking, speed or accident avoidance measures taken or not taken
  • Admissions to police by the other driver
  • Evidence at the scene, like grooming items or food
  • Injuries consistent with having the hands off the wheel

Under these circumstances, a driver could be held responsible for distracted driving if he or she causes an accident and injuries.

Again, it may not always be obvious that another driver was distracted at the time of a crash. However, there are ways to prove distraction, which can be crucial if a victim or a victim's family pursues legal action and compensation.

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