It's the great American pastime, and I'm not talking about baseball.
Fast food and coffee are two of the most profitable industries in America, but they may be hurting us in unexpected ways. According to a 2009 study by ExxonMobil, eating or drinking while driving was the number one cause of wrecks in that year. While more recent statistics have expanded that verbiage to included texting, daydreaming, talking on the phone, reaching for something, etc., distracted driving is still the number one cause of wrecks on the road.
What Do the Numbers Say?
Both coffee and fast food cause auto wrecks, but which is worse? A quick look at the numbers reveals:
- 50 million Americans consume fast food on a daily basis. 100 million Americans drink coffee on a daily basis.
- 70 percent of Americans occasionally eat while driving, while 83 percent of Americans occasionally drink (non-alcoholic beverages) while driving.
- It takes approximately 7 minutes to eat a hamburger, but 15 minutes to drink a cup of coffee.
- 20 percent of American meals are eaten in the car.
- Approximately 60 percent of McDonald's sales are by the drive-thru. Not all Starbucks have a drive-thru, but those that do account for 45 percent of sales.
What Do the Experts Say?
According to a car insurance company called Hagerty Classic Insurance, coffee is more dangerous than fast food because of its tendency to spill, even with a lid. Plus, coffee is often drunk in the morning on the way to work, meaning any spills land right on your work clothes. This, Hagerty asserts, makes drivers more frantic to clean up the mess, leading to more eye time off the road.
The National Traffic Safety Highway Administration agrees, ranking coffee as the most dangerous food or drink to consume while driving, ahead of hamburgers at number 5 and fried chicken at number 7 (out of 10).
I've Been In a Car Wreck. How Can I Prove the Other Driver Was Distracted?
Unlike cell phone records (which can be subpoenaed), it can be hard to prove to a Texas jury that another driver's eating or drinking habits caused the wreck. However, if you're quick to hire the right attorney, it's not impossible. I'll stress that time is of the essence here. When an injured client comes to me with suspicions about distracted driving, I'm very quick to investigate, since evidence tends to wash away with time.
First, I'll look at the police report. Sometimes, the officer's testimony includes a preliminary assessment of fault. If they see a half-eaten bag of French fries in the driver's seat, they may note it in the report. Then, I'll interview witnesses, which can include bystanders who saw the accident or passengers in the vehicle at the time of the accident. Video or photo evidence can also aid in the investigation, as would an admission of fault by the other driver.
What Can I Do to Help My Case?
There are a few things you can do right after the accident to help your case. First, you should document any evidence you can that the driver was distracted. Even if you aren't 100 percent sure what the other driver was doing (eating, texting, etc.), write down your suspicions and what led you to have them. This may involve talking to witnesses or asking the other driver directly, "Were you eating when you wrecked into me?" You should also talk to the police officers who investigate the accident and let them know what you saw - the other driver was looking down, there's a spilled coffee on their car floor, and so on.
Then, contact a personal injury attorney who'll know what to do with this evidence. If you suspect the other driver was distracted, an attorney will help protect your rights and get you the compensation you need.
No matter whether you prefer coffee on the way to work or fast food for the drive home, remember that anything that takes your focus off the road is a dangerous distraction.
If you've been injured in the Dallas-Fort Worth area by a driver you suspect was distracted, give me a call. I'm happy to discuss your options.