Texting at the wheel isn’t a very safe choice, and it is a danger you likely actively avoid. If you pull up next to someone and see their phone in their hands, you will probably try to get away from them as quickly as possible because they might cause a crash.
When you notice them checking their phone at a red light, you might think that is less of a safety concern. After all, they can put the phone back down when the light turns green and continue driving safely.
Unfortunately, many drivers are not able to drive safely immediately after using their phones even if they don’t use their devices while the vehicle is actively in motion.
Screen use causes a cognitive hangover
Your brain cannot instantly shift focus from one issue to another. When a driver picks up their phone to read a text message or type out a quick email, they take their hands off the wheel and their eyes off the road, which are both dangerous choices.
However, it is the cognitive distraction or the mental focus elsewhere that is the biggest risk. Drivers internally distracted can easily cause a crash despite appearing to do what is appropriate at the wheel. Researchers have found that the mental distraction caused by using a mobile phone continues to affect someone’s driving ability for 27 seconds after they put their hands back on the wheel.
In other words, a driver texting at the wheel will remain distracted for almost half a minute, which could translate to half a mile of road.
Internal distraction is a huge safety risk
It isn’t necessarily possible to prove internal distraction the way that you could prove someone had their phone in their hands in court. However, when you know that someone engaged in screen use while driving and then caused a crash, you could potentially hold them accountable for their unsafe practices.
You can tell the police officer filling out the report for your crash about what you saw and file a claim against their insurance coverage. If they don’t have insurance or you suffer major injuries, you may be able to use their distraction as grounds for a personal injury claim.
Understanding and minimizing your personal risk factors for a car crash will improve your safety out on the roads.