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It’s National Coffee Month and, while this celebration isn’t likely to prompt more consumption of America’s favorite beverage, it does give us a good opportunity to consider how and where we’re getting our daily doses, allowing us to modify our behavior to help keep ourselves and others safe from harm.

Many people consume coffee en route to work, social gatherings, kids sporting events, trips home from the supermarket, and at other times while driving. For some, that little pick me up is essential for continuing to navigate the day. For others, a coffee in the car may just be a tasty little treat. Regardless of the reasoning, one thing is clear, people love to drink coffee in their cars. Unfortunately, this can spell danger for others on the road.

Typically, distracted driving is seen as using a cell phone while operating a vehicle. Indeed, cell phone use in cars is unbelievably dangerous, so much so that Georgia has passed a new law that prohibits handheld cell phone use while driving. It is yet to be seen if this law will help save lives, however.

Cell phone use is identified as a factor in about 25% of all car accidents, but distraction is a factor in up to 80%. This clearly indicates that cell phone use, while dangerous, is far from the only form of distraction.

Distracted driving is driving while doing anything that is not directly related to the task of operating a vehicle. One of the most common forms of distraction, for example, is looking at a passenger. Drinking coffee (or tea or soda or water) is also a form of distraction – and one that tends to get overlooked more frequently than others.

While drive-through coffee stands may seem to give another impression, the truth is consuming food or beverages while driving is dangerous – and if one of these behaviors leads to an accident, it becomes a liability. If you injure someone in an accident that follows looking down to grab your coffee cup, looking up while sipping from it, or in any other way responding to a beverage-related issue (spills, troubles finding the cup holders, etc.) you may be held liable for any damages suffered by the others involved. Conversely, if you are injured by someone who is paying more attention to his or her coffee than the task of operating their vehicle, you may be entitled to seek compensation through a personal injury lawsuit.

It may seem strange to think about coffee in the same way as cell phone use, but when it comes to driving, both are risky. If you must drink coffee while you drive, do so with a secure lid on a spill-proof cup, and only sip when at a complete stop. Better still, use this month to modify your behaviors and get yourself used to drinking coffee when you have arrived at your destination. as opposed to while getting there. And be extra careful when driving during peak coffee-consumption times, such as morning commutes, to help avoid being struck by a motorist paying more attention to their drink than the road.

If you have been injured or a loved one has been killed by a distracted driver, please call 404-760-7400 for a free consultation at Lourie, Chance, Forlines, Carter & King. Located in Atlanta, our personal injury attorneys serve Columbus, Augusta, and all surrounding areas of Georgia.