Distracted Driving & Rules of the Road
The National Highway Traffic Administration estimates that in 2020, 3,142 people were killed in car crashes as a result of distracted driving. That is over eight people a day! Distracted driving occurs whenever the operator of a motor vehicle is engaged in any activity that takes their eyes off the road or diverts their attention from what they are doing. This includes talking or testing on the cell phone. Many deadly crashes involving distracted driving involve young people. Pedestrians can also be injured or killed as a result of distracted walking. This has become a national epidemic.
According to the law, a driver of a motor vehicle must keep a lookout for those who are also using the highway and must exercise due care to anticipate the presence of others upon the highway. Failure to do so creates a cause of action under the law in favor of anyone injured or killed as a result. In most states, the requirements imposed on drivers are codified in what is known as the “rules of the road.”
In the state of Alabama the rules of the road are found in Chapter 5A of Title 32 of the Code of Alabama. Alabama law makes the violation of any of these rules a misdemeanor punishable by a fine. Therefore, according to the law, a violation of any of these rules constitutes “negligence per se,” because the violation of a law that results in injury or death is automatically judged to be a negligent act.
These rules are specific but really based on common sense. Compliance with traffic control devices, observing a safe speed for the circumstances, driving at or below the posted speed limit, not following too close, yielding the right of way when appropriate – all these are examples of rules imposed by the law. Of course, if you are texting while you are driving, it is impossible to comply with rules and simply require you to pay attention to your driving. When you read a text message you have to take your eyes off the road for at least five seconds. It’s impossible to keep a lookout as the law requires when you are looking at your cell phone. A vehicle traveling at 55 miles per hour will travel about 400 feet in five seconds. That is more than the length of a football field.