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How Driver Misconduct Affects Reaction Time In California Car Accidents


Regardless of what type of risky driving behavior you review closely, almost all will have one thing in common: They affect reaction time. Dangerous behind-the-wheel misconduct has devastating ramifications for a motorist’s ability to recognize a threat, which in turn affects how long it takes for that driver to respond with evasive action. Some factors will reduce the available time the driver has to react, while others operate to increase the time the motorist needs to prepare a response. Regardless, it is up to the driver to avoid the risky behaviors that have ramifications for reaction time.

Unfortunately, not all motorists take their driving duties seriously. If you suffered injuries in an auto collision because another driver’s dangerous misconduct affected his or her reaction time, you may be able to recover compensation. An Oakland car accident attorney can assist with the legal process, but you might find it useful to understand how reaction time works.

Assessing Reaction Time in Auto Crashes

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) describes how a motorist’s reaction time is a product of three factors:

  1. The time he or she realizes there is a threat and a response is required;
  2. The time required to determine what the appropriate response should be and act on it; and
  3. The time the vehicle’s mechanical and electrical systems need to accomplish the actions taken by the driver.

One of the best ways to understand the importance of reaction time is assessing speed as a factor. The NHTSA reports that a driver needs at least 164 feet to come to a complete stop when traveling at a speed of 40 mph. At a speed of 70 mph, the motorist needs 58 percent more distance – a total of 387 feet.

How Risky Driver Behavior Impacts Reaction Time

Based upon the above description, you can see that safe driving generally requires you to allow enough time and distance to respond to most hazards you might encounter on the road. In other words, a driver who engages in risky conduct behind the wheel is voluntarily choosing to compromise his or her reaction time. Some of the most dangerous motorist behaviors include:

  • Drugged and Drunk Driving: Operating a vehicle while under the influence of drugs or alcohol affect cognition and perception, meaning that an impaired driver is much slower or unable to detect a threat;
  • Distracted Driving: Texting, talking on the phone, surfing the internet, and other illegal cell phone use that take the motorist’s eyes off the road also reduces reaction time;
  • Tailgating: Following too closely, i.e., “tailgating,” reduces the distance between two cars and makes a rear-end collision more likely because there is insufficient cushion of time within which to react to an emergency;
  • Motorist Fatigue: Driving while drowsy can be just as dangerous as drunk driving because concentration levels suffer considerably.

Set Up a Free Consultation with an Oakland Car Accident Lawyer

It is possible for weather and traffic conditions to affect reaction time, but driver negligence is usually behind California auto crashes. To learn how our team at Venardi Zurada, LLP can support your legal needs, please contact our firm to schedule a complimentary case review. We can meet with you at our offices in Oakland or Walnut Creek, CA to discuss your options.


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