When a person in Seattle is in a car accident these days, they may automatically assume the other driver was using their cellphone when the crash occurred. And, this reasoning is sometimes true. In 2016, 3,450 people lost their lives in a fatal accident in which distracted driving was a factor. In fact, the number of distracted driving fatalities has been trending upwards since 2013. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that, across the nation, around nine people lose their lives each day in collisions involving a distracted driver.

Distracted driving is not limited to cellphone use. While texting and driving is an issue in many fatal accidents, talking to other passengers, eating, tuning the radio or GPS or talking on a cellphone are all examples of how a motorist may be distracted while behind the wheel.

There are three primary ways a driver can be distracted. The first is visual distractions. For example, reading a text message or email takes the driver’s eyes off the road. The second is manual distractions. For example, typing a text message or tuning the radio takes the driver’s hands off the wheel of the car. Finally, there are cognitive distractions. For example, reading a text message or email or talking to another passenger takes the driver’s mind off the task of driving.

As this shows, distracted driving is all-too-easy to do and leads to many fatal car crashes each year. When a motorist is driving while distracted, this may be considered a breach of their legal duty to drive reasonably under the circumstances. If that breach causes a fatal car accident, the distracted driver may be held liable for the wrongful death of the victim. Although this post does not provide legal advice on the liability of distracted drivers, those who lost a loved one in a distracted driving accident can bring the matter up to a professional who can help them understand their legal options moving forward.