Beware of These Distracted Driving Behaviors

Distracted drivers cause many car crashes, and hand-held cell phones are not the only culprits.

In 2014, New Mexico lawmakers approved a hands-free cell phone law. Many believed this law would effectively end distracted driving.

But according to research, using a hands-free device may be even more dangerous than using a hand-held device. Hands-free gadgets are visually and cognitively distracting. Users take their eyes off the road and take their minds off driving. Furthermore, these devices give drivers a false sense of security. As a result, they may take more risks than they would otherwise.

Moreover, device distraction is not the only distracted driving issue in New Mexico. Other problems include eating while driving, adjusting the air conditioner, gazing out the window, and talking to passengers. All these activities could constitute a lack of ordinary care, as outlined below.

If a distracted driver caused a crash, the victim may be entitled to substantial compensation under New Mexico law.

Negligence Per Se in Bernalillo County

Many times, a safety law, as opposed to negligence law, establishes the standard of care. That is the case with speed limits, right-of-way laws, and the aforementioned distracted driving law. So, unless drivers use hand-held cell phones in an approved way, they may be liable for damages as a matter of law.

Furthermore, New Mexico’s “hands-free law” is not a true hands-free law. It only applies to emailing, texting, posting, and other such activities. Web surfing, game playing, app using, and other such activities are not illegal. In these situations, victim/plaintiffs must establish a lack of reasonable care.

Ordinary Negligence in New Mexico

Most drivers have a legal duty to drive defensively and obey the rules of the road. Commercial operators, including Uber drivers, have a higher duty of care. These drivers are practically insurers of safe conduct.

Breach of duty is the first step in an ordinary negligence claim. Many jurors do not consider non-device distraction a breach of care, at least in most cases. For example, turning one’s head to speak to a passenger is technically distracted driving. But unless the driver engaged in an animated conversation that lasted for several minutes, most jurors would not say the driver violated the duty of care.

Next, victim/plaintiffs must connect the breach of duty to the car crash. This element, which is called causation, often gives rise to some insurance company defenses, one of which is discussed below.

The Contributory Fault Defense in New Mexico

Contributory negligence is perhaps the most common insurance company defense in car wreck claims. This doctrine basically shifts blame for the accident from the tortfeasor (negligent driver) to the victim. For example, an insurance company lawyer might argue that the victim’s excessive speed, as opposed to the tortfeasor’s distraction, caused the crash.

In these situations, jurors must weigh the evidence and apportion fault on a percentage basis. New Mexico is one of only nine pure comparative fault states. So, even if the victim was 99% responsible for the crash, the victim still receives a proportional share of damages.

These damages usually include compensation for economic losses, such as medical bills, and noneconomic losses, such as pain and suffering.

Contact an Aggressive Lawyer

Distracted drivers often cause serious injuries. For a free consultation with an experienced personal injury attorney in Albuquerque, contact the Law Offices of Edward Chavez, Jr. We do not charge upfront legal fees in negligence cases.