Kentucky Ranks Fifth in Distracted Driving Survey

| Jul 11, 2021 | Car Accidents

Only one other state in the South has more distracted drivers than the Bluegrass State, according to a recent study.

Data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Institute indicates that Kentucky drivers are number five in the country when it comes to not watching the road. New Mexico, Alabama, Montana, and Washington were one through four. The survey ranked Arkansas as the least-distracted state, followed by New York and Alaska.

This survey’s release coincides with the period June 9 through September 12, a stretch law enforcement calls the One Hundred Deadliest Days of Summer. 60 percent of distracted driving teen crashes happen during these summer weeks.

Device Distraction

Most people multitask their way through everyday life. A friend of ours once claimed that she could cook dinner, talk on the phone, drink a glass of milk, feed her infant, and yell at her older kids, all at the same time. Many people assume they can also multitask behind the wheel. However, there’s a big difference between your home’s kitchen and a large motor vehicle rumbling down the highway.

In 2020, Taylorsville State Rep. James Tipton introduced legislation which would ban most hand-held cell phone use while driving. But this proposal quickly died in committee. So, the current law still stands. This rule bans texting and driving in most cases, but that’s about the extent of it.

“Texting” usually includes sending or viewing any email, text, social media post, or other text-based message.

If motorists text, drive, and cause crashes, they could be liable for damages as a matter of law. Kentucky’s negligence per se shortcut applies if:

  • A driver violates a safety law, and
  • That violation substantially causes injury.

Since the cell phone ban is so limited, however, the negligence per se rule only applies in a few cases. So, most device distraction victims must use the ordinary negligence doctrine.

These victims must establish negligence, or a lack of care, by a preponderance of the evidence, or more likely than not. Proof in a device distraction claim often involves device use logs.

A Lexington personal injury attorney must act quickly to preserve this evidence. Otherwise, the device owner might “accidentally” delete this information. Spoliation letters, which lawyers send to potential car arash defendants, create a legal duty to preserve all potential physical evidence for a future possible trial.

Additional evidence includes erratic operation before the crash and the tortfeasor’s statements about cell phone use. You’d be surprised at the things drivers freely confess to police investigators.

Evidence like a device use log could also be useful in a negligence per se claim. Although proof isn’t necessary to establish liability, it could be important for damages purposes. Usually, there’s a direct relationship between the jury’s damage award and the amount of evidence presented.

Damages in a distracted driving claim normally include compensation for economic losses, such as medical bills, and noneconomic losses, such as pain and suffering.

Non-Device Distraction

Some states have broad non-device distraction laws. In 2015, authorities in Georgia gave a man a ticket for eating a cheeseburger while driving. “Maybe I was enjoying the burger too much. I needed to tone it down,” the man admitted. 

Most jurisdictions, including Kentucky, don’t have similar distracted driving laws. Reckless driving is illegal in Kentucky. But law enforcement officers only issue these citations in extreme cases.

So, most non-device distraction claims hinge on the ordinary negligence doctrine. These claims are not just harder to prove, as outlined above. They’re also easier to defend.

Comparative fault is one of the most common defenses. This car accident defense predates the automobile. 1842’s Davies v. Mann is one of the earliest comparative fault cases. The plaintiff let his donkey graze at the side of the road. After the defendant’s wagon approached at “a smartish pace,” it “ran against the ass” and killed it. The court determined that both parties were at fault. The plaintiff shouldn’t have let his donkey take a break in the middle of the road, and the defendant should have operated his wagon more carefully.

Different states have different comparative fault rules. Kentucky is a pure comparative fault state. So, even if the victim was 99 percent responsible for a wreck, the tortfeasor (negligent driver) must pay compensation.

In contrast, most states are modified comparative fault states. The tortfeasor is only responsible for damages if s/he was at least 50 percent at fault for the wreck.

Injury victims are usually entitled to substantial compensation. For a free consultation with an experienced personal injury lawyer in Lexington, contact the Goode Law Office, PLLC. We do not charge upfront legal fees in these matters. #goodelawyers