kansas city car accident attorneysCar Accidents and Distracted Driving in Missouri

Missouri has some of the laxest laws on distracted driving out of any of the fifty states. In Missouri, there are no legal penalties for most drivers for using hand-held mobile devices while driving. In fact, the only people in Missouri who can get a ticket simply for sending text messages while driving are drivers younger than 21 and commercial vehicle drivers. The reason for Missouri’s distracted driving laws is that texting and driving causes more of a risk of serious accidents for minors and commercial drivers than it does for other drivers. It assumes that drivers who have already celebrated their 21st birthday have enough experience texting and driving that they can do it without causing an accident; they have figured out how to keep one eye on the road and the other on the phone.  

As for commercial vehicle drivers, texting and driving is illegal for them because there is really no such thing as a minor truck accident; 98% of crashes involving a commercial truck lead to at least one fatality. Even for young drivers and commercial vehicle drivers, there are exceptions when texting and driving is allowed; they are allowed to text or make a phone call in hand-held mode if they are calling for emergency help or reporting illegal activity. Of course, it is legal for everyone to send text messages from a parked car. 

Texting is not the only distraction that contributes to car accidents. If you have been injured in a car accident in which the driver who hit you was too distracted to notice you, contact the experienced Kansas City car accident injury lawyers of Foster Wallace, LLC.

Sending Text Messages While Driving

Sending or reading text messages while driving is the biggest cause of distracted driving accidents. Even if you have one hand on the steering wheel, deciding which auto complete option, if any, applies, or scrolling through emojis takes away too much of your attention. Even holding down the microphone icon and sending a voice note in response to a text message is risky.

Checking Your GPS Navigation

Trying to avoid an accident while you are confused about where you are going and need to make a quick decision about which lane to take is certainly a recipe for distraction, and GPS navigation sought to remedy that, but interacting with GPS devices is also a contributing factor in some distracted driving accidents. Programming an address into a navigation app on your phone or clicking to modify your route takes your attention away from the road as much as sending a text message does. Those heads up devices that project the GPS directions onto your windshield cause as many distractions as they prevent; it can be as bad as looking down at your phone to see the route. Even when the computerized GPS voice tells you the directions over your car speaker, the voice might not give you the next command until shortly before it is time to change lanes or turn.

Trying to Read Confusing Road Signs

People old enough to have learned to drive in an era before GPS navigation will remember how stressful it used to be to shift your attention back and forth between road signs and road maps.  What happens if your GPS tells you to turn onto a certain road, but the road signs tell you that the road you are approaching has a different name? What about those light-up signs alerting you to road construction up ahead? GPS navigation has reduced the distraction potential posed by road signs, but it has not completely eliminated it.

Having Your Pets in the Car

Dogs love riding in the car, but they can certainly distract you when you are driving. The dog can climb from the back seat to the front seat or bark unexpectedly, distracting you while you are driving. Imagine that you are trying to drive during a thunderstorm, squinting to see the road through the rain even as your windshield wipers are on the fastest setting. It is hard enough to drive under those circumstances, but what if your German shepherd gets scared by a thunderclap and suddenly jumps into your lap?

Pet distractions are entirely avoidable, even if you travel by car with your pets. The best thing to do is to keep your pets in a travel carrier while the car is moving; of course, they can get out when the car is parked. If your dog will not tolerate riding in a carrier, have another person ride in the back seat with the dog, so the dog has someone else to cuddle if it gets spooked by loud noises.

Putting on Makeup While Driving

Driver’s side and passenger side visors have mirrors, specifically so that you can check or fix your makeup in the car. Fixing your makeup while the car is moving is a major distraction, though. Wait until you are parked; then turn the visor down and touch up your makeup.

Distractions from Other Passengers in the Car

People like to complain that now that there are cell phones, everyone’s attention is on their phones instead of on their in-person companions. The people riding with you in the car are perfectly capable of distracting you. Fussing children or a friend who cannot wait until the end of the car ride to tell you about the latest drama can be contributing factors to distracted driving accidents.

Zoning Out While Driving

Sometimes the biggest distractions are not on the road or next to you in the car; they are inside your own mind. It is easy to zone out while driving if you are tired or stressed, and you might not notice an approaching car until it is too late.

Michael Foster
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Kansas City Personal Injury Attorney
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