Most people know that using a cellphone while behind the wheel is distracting and, in many states, illegal. Texas forbids the use of hand-held cellphones in school crossing zones and has a texting ban for all drivers while some states will allow cellphone use only among drivers over 18. There is a diversity of opinion as to how much distraction is allowable, in what areas and in how experienced of a driver.
A new meta-analysis in Human Factors has shown that not only cellphone use but also conversations with passengers can be distracting to drivers and increase their chances of a collision. Though the level of distraction varies depending on how engaging the conversation is, the fact is that driver performance suffers in almost every area, including speed, lane position, distance and reaction time.
Cellphone use has a significant impact on drivers' awareness of the environment. Drivers tend to check their mirrors less, drift into other lanes, follow too closely to other cars and have a harder time identifying hazards and reacting to them in time. Even dialing the phone can endanger them because it takes their eyes off the road. Distraction is an ongoing concern, especially as self-driving cars begin to change people's ideas about situational awareness. As long as people have control of their vehicles, negligence will be an issue.
When distractions contribute to a motor vehicle accident, those who are injured through no fault of their own may be eligible for compensation. After speaking with their own insurance company, victims might hire a lawyer about to file against the guilty party's insurance carrier. The lawyer may help build up the case with proof gathered by investigators, estimate a fair settlement and negotiate for it. The lawyer might litigate as a last resort.