According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), more than 3,100 Americans were killed in distracted driving accidents in 2019. This accounted for 8.7% of all motor vehicle-related fatalities in 2019, as well as an increase of 9.9% from the previous year.
Often, when we think of distracted driving, we think of texting or using a cell phone behind the wheel. While cell phone use is one of the most common forms of distracted driving, it is not the only one. At Pringle & Herigstad, P.C., we represent victims of all types of distracted driving accidents in North Dakota. With offices in Minot and Grand Forks, we provide convenient, client-focused representation backed by over 100 years of experience.
If you or someone you love was involved in a car accident or motor vehicle crash involving a distracted driver, reach out to our team today to learn how we can help. We provide free initial consultations and contingency fees, so you do not owe anything unless we recover compensation for you.
North Dakota’s Distracted Driving Laws
Like most other states, North Dakota has several laws related to distracted driving. Specifically, in 2017, the state’s distracted driving laws were expanded to prohibit any type of distracted driving that impairs the driver’s ability to safely operate the vehicle. Anyone who is found to be distracted while driving faces a $100 fine, among other possible penalties.
In North Dakota, texting while driving is illegal. This means using a handheld device, such as a cell phone, to read, type, or send a text message or any type of text-based communication. The ban applies whether the vehicle is in motion or temporarily stopped (such as at a stop sign or red light). It also includes electronic communications other than text messages, such as emails, social media posts, private/direct messages, etc. Additionally, drivers under the age of 18 are prohibited from using any electronic communication device, including hands-free devices.
Types of Driving Distractions
Although texting and driving is one of the most discussed forms of distracted driving, anything that takes a motorist’s attention away from the task of driving is considered a driving distraction.
Driving distractions are typically classified in the following ways:
- Manual Distractions: These are any actions that cause a driver to remove one or both hands from the steering wheel.
- Visual Distractions: Anything that causes a driver to take his or her eyes off the road is considered a visual distraction.
- Cognitive Distraction: Cognitive distractions are anything that disrupts a driver’s attention and cause him or her to think about anything other than driving.
Often, driving distractions fall under two or three categories. For example, a driver who looks down to adjust the temperature controls is both visually and manually distracted, as his eyes are on the controls and at least one of his hands is off the steering wheel to adjust the temperature. A driver who texts while driving is visually, manually, and cognitively distracted, as she is holding a cell phone in one hand, looking at the phone instead of the road ahead, using one or both hands to type, and thinking about the content of the message rather than the task of driving.
Examples of Distracted Driving
Anything that impairs a driver’s ability to safely operate a motor vehicle can be considered a driving distraction.
Some examples of common driving distractions include:
- Texting or sending electronic communications
- Using a cell phone or handheld device, such as a GPS system
- Eating or drinking behind the wheel
- Adjusting temperature controls, music, etc.
- Talking to passengers/other vehicle occupants
- Driving with pets or children in the car
- Reaching for an item that has fallen or spilled
- Looking at billboards, accidents, and other things along the roadway
- Daydreaming or simply not paying attention while driving
Depending on the type of distraction involved, it can be difficult to prove that another motorist was distracted when he or she caused the accident that left you injured. However, our North Dakota distracted driving accident attorneys know how to conduct exhaustive investigations and gather applicable evidence to prove the other driver’s negligence.
What to Do After an Accident with a Distracted Driver
After a serious crash, you are likely to feel fairly shaken up and unsure of what to do. However, there are a few important things you should keep in mind to protect your rights, including your right to fair compensation.
Here’s what to do if you are involved in an accident with a distracted driver:
- Stay at the Scene: It is unlawful to leave the scene of an accident without exchanging information and attempting to provide reasonable aid to injured individuals. Remain at the scene of the accident and wait for police to arrive.
- Call 911: If anyone appears critically injured or in need of immediate medical assistance, call 911. You should also contact the police and have them come to the scene of the accident. You are required to report any accident that results in bodily injury, death, or property damage of $1,000 or more.
- Exchange Information: Get the name, contact information (phone number, address, etc.), and insurance information of the other driver(s) involved in the accident. Provide your information as well but avoid assigning or admitting blame.
- Document the Accident: Take pictures of the accident, including any damage to your vehicle, as well as your injuries. Talk to witness (if any) and get their name(s) and contact information. Write down everything you can remember about the accident as soon as possible.
- Seek Medical Attention: Even if you were not treated at the scene and/or hospitalized, you should still seek medical attention as soon as possible after the accident. You may have underlying injuries that can be masked by the shock of the crash.
- Report the Accident to Your Insurance Provider: Under North Dakota’s no-fault system, you are entitled to compensation for certain economic damages after the crash under your personal injury protection (PIP) coverage. You should notify your insurance provider about the accident and file a claim as soon as possible.
- Contact an Auto Accident Attorney: Whether you are seeking compensation under your PIP coverage or wish to file a third-party car accident claim, it is a good idea to contact an experienced attorney who can protect your rights and advocate for your maximum recovery.
Distracted driving is a form of negligence. If you were severely injured and/or suffered medical expenses in excess of $2,500, you may be able to step outside the state’s no-fault system and file a lawsuit against the negligent motorist who caused your injuries. Our North Dakota distracted driving accident lawyers can help you understand your legal options and provide personalized counsel regarding your best options moving forward.
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Being injured or losing a loved one because of a distracted driver’s negligent and wrongful conduct is devastating. You deserve justice, and Pringle & Herigstad, P.C. can help.
Since 1909, our firm has been committed to serving our community by helping our North Dakota clients protect their rights in the face of serious adversity. We have helped thousands of car accident victims, as well as the families of those wrongfully killed in motor vehicle collisions, successfully fight for justice and fair compensation for their losses. Our team can help you seek maximum recovery for your medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering, lost quality of life, and more.