Driving distracted is one of the most dangerous things you can do behind the wheel, but unfortunately many drivers don’t take it seriously. Knowing the truth about how much it can cost you, in terms of both money and your health, can help you make a more responsible choice when you’re on the road.
The Most Common Distractions
Distracted driving falls into three main categories:
- Visual. Any time you take your eyes off the road, it’s distracted driving. It doesn’t matter if you’re playing with your cell phone, fiddling with the radio, or checking on the passengers in the back seat.
- Manual. Taking your hands off the wheel falls under manual distractions. This means each time you fiddle with the heater or try to drive with your knee while opening a soda bottle, you’re in danger of a fine.
- Cognitive. A cognitive distraction means you aren’t keeping your mind focused on your driving. When you’re behind the wheel, is no time to daydream.
Cell phones are one of the most dangerous forms of distracted driving because they cause visual, manual and cognitive distractions. You aren’t watching the road if you’re looking at your phone. Your hands aren’t on the wheel if you’re texting. Most dangerous of all – you aren’t giving your driving your full, undivided attention if you’re talking, texting, or surfing the web.
Talking (or Texting) Your Way to an Empty Wallet
Currently, 14 states ban handheld cell phone use and 44 states ban texting behind the wheel for all drivers. Fines range from $25 to $250, depending on the state and the number of offenses. These fines are just for a cell phone distracted driving citation – for example, in states like Iowa you can get fined an additional $1000 if you are in an accident while texting.
In the words of NY traffic attorney, Zev Goldstein, Esq., “In NY, only two other traffic violations carry 5 DMV points: reckless driving and passing a stopped school bus. Distracted driving – using hand held cell phones or portable electronic devices (PED) has entered that club.”
Fines aren’t the only cost of cell phone use when you’re driving. In many states, you also receive points on your license. Too many points can result in a suspended license and higher insurance rates, and it only takes a single citation to raise your insurance – even if your state doesn’t use a point system.
Points can remain on your license for two or more years, and can affect your insurance costs for up to five years. A costs of a cell phone ticket can haunt you for many years.
Why Gamble With Your Life?
If fines and increased insurance rates aren’t enough to keep you off the phone, then consider the accident stats. In 2011, 421,000 people were injured and 3,360 people died as a result of distracted driving. Often, cell phone use and texting were the culprit. It’s not just your life that’s in danger. When you choose to use your phone, you are endangering everyone else on the road, too.
Getting behind the wheel comes with responsibility, both to you and to other motorists. Put away the phone until you get to your destination. At the very least, it will save you money – and it may even save a life.
Guest authored for Minick Law Blog by Benjamin Lamm, a communication specialist and blogger. Ben enjoys playing the guitar, spending time with family and social networking.
James Minick is founder and C.E.O. of Minick Law, P.C. James is committed to providing top notch legal services through his team of highly specialized legal professionals. James will defend your rights.