Inattentive Driving


Inattentive Driving

Inattentive driving often gets conflated with distracted driving, but they aren't the same thing. Distracted driving is a form of inattentive driving specific to the use of electronic devices while behind the wheel—Sending or receiving texts or emails , viewing social media accounts, making phone calls, and so forth. Inattentive is all encompassing it is doing anything other than paying attention to the road. Everyone of us has been inattentive while driving.  Think about it inattentive driving is all of the following, but so much more—changing the radio station, programming a GPS, reading a map, putting on makeup, adjusting the air conditioning or heater, talking to others in the car, or trying to discipline children while driving. It also includes daydreaming and driving on autopilot rather than actively paying attention to the road—actions that can lead to the failure to yield in intersections or to notice the traffic patterns around a driver before making a turn or changing lanes. 

While cell phone use in particular gets a lot of media attention, these others still remain. They caused serious accidents long before the advent of cell phones, and they continue to contribute to the cause. If one of these drivers hits you,  you may have an opportunity to recover damages and receive compensation by contacting an experienced car wreck attorney.

Driver inattention is a major cause of motor vehicle accidents in Tennessee and across the nation. What are the main causes of this?

Read on for more information.

What Is Attentive Driving?

An attentive driver pays attention to the roadway, and focuses on the task of driving. Examples of attentive driving include:

  • Assessing traffic conditions on the roadway far ahead of the driver's current position to have ample time to recognize and respond to hazards.
  • Maintaining a safe following distance between the driver's vehicle and the vehicle ahead of it.
  • Reducing speed and increasing vigilance when road conditions change, such as during a rain or snowstorm or in low visibility conditions such as at dawn or dusk.
  • Has a plan.
  • Changes Plans as situation arise or change.
  • Avoiding driving when enraged.
  • Avoiding driving when under the influence of alcohol or medication
  • Avoiding driving when fatigued
  • Checking mirrors and using the turn signal before turning or making a lane change.
  • Avoiding any activity that draws one's attention from driving, including, eating, reading, or applying makeup

An attentive driver is proactive instead of reactive. An attentive driver is constantly assessing situations and thinking about what they would do if that happens. Always have plans when you drive and always continue to change those plans as conditions present themselves.

The Consequences of Inattention

In 2017, over 3000 people died in the United States due to traffic accidents caused by inattentive drivers. There were almost 600 non-occupants killed in distraction-related crashes, including pedestrians, bicyclists, and others. Here is a look at a few more things inattentive drivers do:

  • Inattention may make a driver miss changes in speed limits, causing a driver to speed through school zones where pedestrians may cross the street or work zones where workers are present. Missouri law features increased fines for speeding in work zones, and further increases if workers are present at the time when the offense occurred.
  • Inattention could cause a driver to miss an exit or to carelessly cross through traffic lanes because a driver was late in preparing to exit. Inattention can also cause a driver to fail to notice road signs, such as one-way signs, that could result in wrong-way driving.
  • A driver could miss hazards on the roadway due to inattention, including people, other cars, or even animals. 
  • Inattention is also a major cause of rear-end accidents, as a driver could proceed without noticing that traffic has slowed or stopped ahead.
  • Inattention at intersections is particularly risky, as it can lead to a failure to yield the right-of-way, the chief cause of broadside accidents.
  • Inattentive driving that involves loud music or headphones may cause an inability to hear approaching sirens of emergency vehicles, potentially creating an obstacle for first responders in an emergency. It can also cause a driver to miss the clicking sound of a turn signal, possibly confusing other drivers. Drivers may miss the sound of other vehicles or children playing by the roadside and not realize they're there in time to avoid collisions.
  • Inattention could cause a driver to miss a school bus stop sign or flashing lights, resulting in the potential for striking a child who is getting off the school bus and crossing the street.
  • Inattention can result in a driver swerving into another travel lane or even into oncoming traffic lanes.
  • Inattention is a major cause of single-vehicle run off the road type accidents, which often result in deadly vehicle rollovers.
  • An inattentive driver is also at increased risk of inadequate surveillance before entering a roadway, which poses a particular risk to bicyclists, pedestrians, and motorcyclists that may be in the vehicle's path.

Types of Driver Inattention

As many as 80 percent of car accidents are the result of a driver who is distracted or not paying attention. To operate a motor vehicle safely, drivers must visually, manually, and cognitively pay attention to driving. 

  • Manual inattention: Manual distractions are those that cause the driver to take his or her hands from the wheel. 
  • Visual inattention: “I only looked down for one second,” is a phrase commonly heard at the scene of motor vehicle accidents. 
  • Cognitive inattention: To drive safely, the driver must focus on the task of driving. Letting one's mind wander or simply not paying attention to what is going on in and around the vehicle is actually the most common crash-causing distraction of all. Examples of cognitive distractions to drivers include daydreaming, thinking about work or personal issues, conversing with other passengers, singing or listening to music, or talking on the phone.

Alcohol impairment or fatigued driving aren't technically forms of inattention, but both of these conditions impair a driver's ability to focus on the roadway and may result in other deficits in the skills needed for the safe operation of a motor vehicle.

The Dangers of Smart Phones and Driving

I-phones, Androids and other smart phones have created an epidemic  where people continue to distract themselves from the task at hand.  Distractions include texting, in particular—poses a particular risk when driving, because it causes the driver to be distracted manually, visually, and cognitively all at the same time.  The National Highway Traffic Safety Association, opined it takes a person approximately five seconds to read or reply to a text.  On the interstate a driver could travel a 1000 feet with their eyes off the road.

Why can't drivers simply set down their phones? Studies continue to show the smartphone is an addictive pass-time. It has been found that even using hands-free devices does not eliminate the risk of an accident, as the risk has less to do with the manual distraction and more to do with our brain's inability to multi-task.

Inattentiveness and Young Drivers

Drivers between the ages of 15 and 19 represented the highest number of drivers in fatal distraction-related crashes in the nation in 2017. Distraction, a key factor in over half of accidents involving young drivers, as driver inexperience and inattentiveness make a dangerous combination. While much has been said about cell phone use, texting, and teenage driving, another risky distraction for teens is their peers. Maybe it is the inexperience that allows the inattentiveness to creep in so easily.

Accident rates double, for teen drivers who have one additional teen riding as a passenger in their car. That risk triples if there are two or more teen passengers in the car. Younger drivers are much more easily distracted when driving.

While both male and female teens are prone to distractions when there are peers in the car, male teen drivers are twice more likely to drive aggressively when they have peer passengers in the car than they are when driving alone, and six times more likely to perform an illegal maneuver. On the other hand, female teen drivers are far less likely to drive aggressively, whether they have an additional passenger in the car or not. This illustrates how important it is not to egg others on and to not egg others on as well. 

Teen drivers and passengers alike are encouraged to take the task of driving seriously and eliminate or avoid distractions such as loud music, horseplay, or social media. Passengers are encouraged to have respect for the teen driver and to never encourage him or her to speed or otherwise engage in risky driving practices. Teens to often mistake cars for toys and that can be a fatal mistake for them or others.

Were You Injured? Contact Betz and Baril

Were you injured in an accident caused by an inattentive driver? If so, call Betz and Baril at 865-888-8888

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