Imagine you are on the driving on the freeway during afternoon rush hour traffic. While you are checking out email on your smartphone, someone cuts in front of you, without signaling, causing you to crash into the rear of their car. At first glance you would think this is a clear case of fault; the other person failed to use a signal. The other driver could claim you were contributorily negligent because you were gawking at your smartphone while driving. What is contributory negligence when in a car accident? It’s behavior that increases the risk of harm to yourself or others. This can be potentially damaging to a personal injury claim you have against the other party, even if they are clearly in the wrong. There are some things you can do while driving that can decrease the chances of an opposing party using contributory negligence against you if you find yourself in a personal injury suit.
One way you could find yourself contributorily negligent in a car accident is if you have a penchant for exceeding the speed limit by a significant amount. There are a number of things you can do that can help you ease off the gas while on the road. One way you can reduce the need for speed is by giving yourself extra time to get to your destination; doing so will allow you to compensate for unforeseen events like traffic jams and unexpected road closures that could cause you to take a path which is longer than the one you planned out. Being patient is easier said than done, but finding a way to temper impatience could help shield you from sharing the blame in an accident. Relaxation techniques like breathing exercises and playing more easy going music have been known to help drivers exercise more patience than not.
If you have been on the road for a prolonged period of time, fatigue can cause costly mental errors you would never imagine doing when fully energized. If you anticipate having to take a long road trip, try taking pre and mid-drive naps. It goes without saying there are benefits to getting a good night’s sleep, but when that it isn’t possible, taking a short nap before taking off should increase your road awareness. Taking advantage of rest stops along the way should help; take a 20 minute, mid-trip nap to help you make it the rest of the way without dozing off. It never hurts to travel with someone either; having a travel buddy to tag along with you can allow you to make the long drive in shifts, so that both of you get an equal chance to stay rested. If all else fails, try coffee. The good news about coffee: the caffeine will enhance your alertness for a few hours. The bad news about coffee: the caffeine wears off after a few hours.
As much as we think we can multi-task on the road, we really can’t. Although reducing distractions while driving can appear to be a daunting task, it can be done with a few helpful tips. Establish a rule for yourself to only answer your phone if you suspect it’s an emergency. If you’re a person that just has to pick up your phone when it rings, try putting on silent while you’re driving. If your car is set up for Bluetooth, sync your smart phone to your car’s Bluetooth system. However, if you have a new car, fiddling with the radio or other buttons on your dashboard can take your eyes off the road for a longer period of time than you think. Before you take off for a trip of any length, take some time to get familiar with layout of your car’s dashboard so button pressing becomes more instinctual while you drive. Limiting the use of your rearview mirror to keep an eye out for traffic and not for grooming or getting dressed will go a long ways towards keeping you focused on the road.
Hopefully these tips will not only protect you from potential liability in an automotive accident, they will go a long way towards making the roads a little bit safer for everyone.
If you are ever in an automotive accident and you suspect the other driver’s negligence caused it, please reach out the Law Offices of Michael Cordova for a free consultation.