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Is Reading While Driving Distracted Driving?

March 12, 2020 By Cerussi and Gunn P.C. Legal Team

Distracted driving is one of the most common causes of traffic accidents in New Jersey and around the U.S. In 2017 alone, distracted drivers caused the deaths of almost 3,200 people around the nation. Distracted driving accidents have increased in frequency over the last few decades due to portable electronic devices such as cellphones. While many drivers obey states’ texting and driving laws, however, they may not realize the dangerous nature of other forms of distraction – including reading while driving.

The Definition of Distracted Driving

Distracted driving refers to operating a motor vehicle while engaged in any other activity. This includes using a cellphone, as well as other kinds of distraction such as personal grooming, chatting with passengers, rubbernecking car accidents and daydreaming. Reading is a common form of driver distraction. This can include reading a map, a billboard, a book, a newspaper, Kindle or e-reader, a text message, or an email. All driver distractions come in three main categories.

  • A distraction that takes the driver’s eyes off the road.
  • A distraction that takes the driver’s hands off the steering wheel.
  • A distraction that takes the driver’s mind off the driving task.

Reading while driving is so dangerous because it can fulfill all three types of driver distraction. It detracts a driver’s visual attention from the road and onto the material being read. It could also take the driver’s hands off the wheel if the driver is physically holding the cellphone, book or map he or she is reading. Finally, reading is a cognitive distraction if it takes the driver’s mind off of driving and onto the reading material. Any distraction that ticks all three boxes is extremely dangerous for drivers.

Accidents While Reading and Driving

Many drivers do not appreciate the risks of reading while driving. Many believe it is safe to read something while behind the wheel, especially while stopped at red lights or in congested traffic. Yet reading is not a safe way to pass the time on a commute. Even while stopped, reading something could lead to a failure to notice the traffic around a driver and changing roadway conditions, such as a pedestrian stepping into the road. Reading anything while driving could distract a driver enough to make many dangerous mistakes.

  • Failing to scan the road ahead
  • Failing to notice a stopped vehicle
  • Failing to notice a changing traffic light
  • Running a light or stop sign
  • Failing to stop at a crosswalk
  • Failing to yield the right-of-way
  • Speeding or breaking other roadway rules
  • Tailgating or following too closely
  • Making an unsafe lane change
  • Failing to stop on time due to delayed reflexes

Reading while driving can distract a driver enough to break traffic laws, miss his or her exit, fail to check blind spots, and commit many other acts that could lead to preventable car accidents. Reading can cause accidents such as rear-end collisions, merge accidents, T-bone collisions, intersection accidents, pedestrian collisions and single-vehicle accidents. If a distracted driver causes a car accident, he or she may be liable for damages.

Liability for Distracted Driving Accidents

New Jersey is a no-fault insurance state. After a distracted driving crash, all injured parties will seek compensation from their own insurance providers, regardless of who caused the collision. A distracted driver could face individual liability for a wreck he or she caused from reading while driving, however, if the injuries victims sustained are serious enough to fall outside of the state’s no-fault insurance system.

If you believe another driver caused your wreck by reading while driving, collect evidence of driver distraction while still at the scene of the accident. This could include taking pictures of a book, magazine or e-reader in the driver’s front seat. Then, hire an attorney to help you prove your serious injury claim. A Monmouth County car accident lawyer can access information such as the driver’s cellphone records to help prove your case. If you have severe injuries, a claim against the distracted driver’s auto insurance could lead to fair compensation for your damages.