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Are you sharing the road with a distracted driver?

Construction, weather, changing traffic patterns and the normal hustle and bustle of traffic are enough to keep you busy while you drive. You may also be looking for your next turn or trying to remember how to get to your destination. Driving can be an all-consuming task, and it is important to remain focused while you do it.

You may think that, with all you are concerned about behind the wheel, you don’t have the time or brain space to worry about what other drivers are doing in their vehicles. However, defensive driving rules say you must. More important than wondering if other drivers will use their turn signals, you may worry that the person in the next lane is too distracted to be driving.

Watch for these signs

Annually, distracted drivers cause 1.6 million accidents nationwide, resulting in thousands of deaths. Each day, over 700 people suffer life-changing injuries in accidents involving drivers who aren’t paying attention. Distraction can involve adjusting the entertainment console, setting a GPS device, eating, drinking, dealing with others in the vehicle or tending to one’s appearance, to name a few. If a vehicle is going too fast or too slow, swerving, crossing the center line or braking for no reason, you may be dealing with a distracted driver. Other signs include the following:

  • You can see wild gesticulating in the vehicle, or the driver keeps turning around to the passenger or the back seat.
  • The driver is chewing, smoking or holding a beverage.
  • The driver bends over or leans forward, which may mean he or she is searching for something on the floor or adjusting the seat.
  • You can see the glow of a cell phone on the driver’s face.
  • The driver is looking down at his or her lap.

Cell phone use is, by far, the most dangerous form of distraction. A distraction can either take your mind, your eyes or your hands from the task of safely operating a motor vehicle. Using a cell phone for texting, calling or engaging apps affects all three of these functions. In North Carolina and most other states, the use of cell phones for texting, emailing or making calls while driving is against the law. Nevertheless, many drivers ignore this, placing you and your loved ones at risk.

While you may practice your best defensive driving, there is often no defense against a distracted driver. However, you may have options for seeking justice through the civil courts if you suffer injuries or lose a loved one because of a distracted driver.