For those of us who have been driving for years, operating a vehicle is almost like breathing. It's easy to get distracted during your commute, but can distractions be a crime?
What Counts as Distracted Driving?
According to the Michigan State Police, there are three types of distraction:
Visual distractions take your eyes off the road for a period of time. Texting, turning around for something in the back seat, and doing your makeup can affect your driving.
Manual distractions take your hands off the steering wheel. If you are eating or drinking, reading, or using a map and your hands leave the wheel, it is a manual distraction.
Lastly, cognitive distractions – these are outside influences that take your mind off of the road. We all have that one song we love every time, but sometimes getting too into the music may cause you to miss an important traffic change or road condition.
Anything can become a distraction if it takes your eyes, hands, and/or mind off of the task at hand.
The Cost of Distractions
The answer to whether distracted driving could be illegal is: kind of.
Ultimately, how severe the penalties are for distracted driving depends on the laws in your state. Michigan law prohibits texting and driving – an activity that can fulfill all three types of distraction. First offenders will be fined $100 with all subsequent offenses.
However, while the cost of texting and driving down an empty road is only a few hundred dollars, open roads aren't the norm. If an accident occurs because the driver is distracted, there could be life-long consequences.
In the same way that a drunk driver can be charged with manslaughter, someone texting and driving could face similar penalties. If a law enforcement officer discovers that you injured or killed another driver because of a distraction, they could charge you with reckless driving.
Additionally, accidents that result in death may land the driver responsible behind bars. If you are facing a reckless driving charge and/or jail time, contact an attorney as soon as possible.
How to Avoid Distractions
These days, there are distractions everywhere. Whether we're behind the wheel or working from home, life provides endless disturbances that may occupy our thoughts and steal our time. However, there are some things you can do to avoid distracted driving.
- Put your phone on Do Not Disturb in your bag or the glove compartment
- Avoid eating, drinking, and smoking while driving
- If you have rowdy youngsters in the backseat, pull over instead of handling it on the road
- Avoid completing your morning routine in the car
- Preset your radio and other controls to minimize visual and manual distractions
- Keep pets in a carrier or install a net/device to keep them from jumping into the driver's seat
- When possible, avoid medications that may make you drowsy or tired
- If you need a break, take a break! Never drive for extended periods without rest
We all have distractions, but getting preoccupied behind the wheel can have dire consequences. Do yourself (and others) a favor and take the steps necessary to eliminate distractions inside the vehicle.
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