Articles Tagged with “distracted driving”

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Given the prevalence of cell phones and smartphones, the likelihood is that many if not most automobile accidents are caused by distracted driving. The NHTSA estimates about 3,000 fatal distracted driving auto accidents in 2011. One study suggests that cell phones may be the cause of 1.6 million accidents per year, which is 28% of all auto accidents. Maryland has been improving the laws year after year, but some research questions whether existing laws around the nation are good enough.

distracted driving accident attorney.jpgAs far as punishment, some believe that higher fines will increase compliance, just as it did for seatbelt laws. New Jersey is considering a $200 fine for the first offense with a license suspension for 90 days for the third offense. Connecticut has already increased fines to $125 for a first offense. In Maryland, the fines are relatively light. Talking on a cell phone can cost $40 for a first offense and $100 for subsequent offenses. Sending or reading e-mails or texts is punishable by $70 fine for the first offense and $110 for subsequent offenses.

We should beef up the penalty provisions–larger fines and points (right now, there are no points issued for speaking on a phone for the first offense unless it causes a collision). Financial penalties provide most people with an incentive for good behavior, which will lead to safer roads.

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Employee Handbook.jpgThe scourge of distracted driving is so bad that I predict many attorneys will be adding to their lawsuits complaints against employers for failure to have policies, procedures and protocols to discourage distracted driving. First, a little bit about agency.

An agent is someone who is working for someone else. When an employee gets in his car to go do something for his employer, he is the agent of the employer. When the driver negligently causes a Maryland auto accident, both the driver is responsible and the employer is responsible.

Because distracted driving is such a big deal right now, employers are jumping on the bandwagon to come up with policies about when their employees can and can’t use cell phones while driving. Some companies are prohibiting the use of handheld phones; others are prohibiting all cell phone use, even hands-free conversation. Where an employer does not take the step to set a policy, they are setting themselves up for more liability in the event of an accident. Realistically, they will be on the hook for any auto accident injuries regardless of whether the company was negligent, but it gives one more reason for the judge or jury to decide that the company is responsible. Also, it puts forth negative conduct by the company, which makes a jury more likely to decide against them if the question of liability (whether the employee was negligent) is unclear.

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distracted driving accident attorney.jpgA driving simulator called One Simple Decision, made by Virtual Driver Interactive http://www.driverinteractive.com/index.php is attempting to show driver’s the short and long-term consequences of texting and driving. It starts with the driver driving, and then instructs the driver to begin texting. When the (hopefully) inevitable collision occurs, the driver goes through a first-person interrogation by police, medical personnel, and a judge in an attempt to show chronic texters the real-life consequences of distracted driving.

The allure of a simulation like this is the desire to beat it, like any videogame. I know the dangers of texting and driving, but (I suspect like most people), I think that I can do it relatively safely. So what happens when a driver beats the simulator? Is that a license to text and drive? I’d like to know the simulators statistics.

Regardless, it is clear that in a controlled situation, the driver is going to bring his or her A-game. In real life, there will be less attention to detail, and a higher likelihood of a distracted driving accident.

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distracted driving accident attorney.jpgIn a distracted driving lawsuit where phone use is the culprit, the recipient of the e-mail or the text message is obviously at fault, and a proper defendant. Drivers must use reasonable care, and if they are not able to pay attention to driving, and that lack of attention causes an accident, then they are responsible for any injuries or damages.

What about the sender of a text message that, when read by the driver, causes inattention long enough to lead to an accident? Does the sender have some duty toward the injured victim, and did the sender violate the standard of care expected of a reasonable texter?

One lawyer, Stephen Weinstein, thinks there might be a case here: David and Linda Kubert filed a lawsuit against text-receiving driver Kyle Best and his girlfriend, text-sender Shannon Colonna. No one can argue that the injuries aren’t significant: Mr. and Mrs. Kubert, riding a motorcycle, each lost a leg in the accident.

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distracted driving accident attorney.jpgAT&T conducted a survey of 1,200 teenagers (ages 15-19) to learn more about driving behavior and attitudes toward texting and driving. Here are some of their conclusions:

  • 97% of teens know that texting while driving is dangerous
  • 70% of teens believe that texting while stopped at a red light is dangerous
  • 54% of Hispanic teens admit to texting while driving
  • 41% of Caucasian teens admit to texting while driving
  • 42% of African-American teens admit to texting while driving
  • 80% of Hispanic teens admit to using their phones while at red lights
  • 71% of Caucasian teens admit to using their phones while at red lights
  • 70% of African-American teens admit to using their phones while at red lights
  • 46% of teens send between 21 and 100 text messages per day

AT&T’s Infographic is pretty good–it highlights a lot of information designed to help promote their “Texting & Driving: It Can Wait” campaign. Two things that caught my eye:

  • At 65 mph a car travels the length of a basketball court in a single second
  • Texting takes your eyes off of the road for an average of 5 seconds

Like many providers, AT&T has designed a mobile app (DriveMode) to prevent text messages from reaching a driver.
For more information on distracted driving, check out our Charm City Lawyer Blog posts and past Maryland Car Accident Lawyers Blog posts. If you believe that you have been injured because another driving was driving while texting, contact us at 443.850.4426, or online for a free consultation.

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Distracted pedestrian.jpgNone of them should be texting. We’ve blogged before about distracted driving and even distracted doctoring. Now, Fort Lee New Jersey is issuing tickets to pedestrians who ignore traffic signals or who jaywalk while looking down at their phones.

There were 117 tickets issued in one month, at $85.00 a pop. The question here, as with all governmental cell phone regulation, is whether the government should be taking this parental role? Opponents of regulation say that the government should just leave us alone, and that if we are stupid enough to text and walk across the street, we deserve to get run over. Proponents say that the problem does not just affect those who text–it affects the motorist who hits us, the person who hits them, and costs taxpayers money when someone isn’t insured and needs medical care.

The problem is of course, widespread. A New York State Senator commented in an ABC news article on one of two deaths in Brooklyn:

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Self-driving car.jpgWe’ve all heard about Google’s research into self-driving cars. Now the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is getting into the mix, believing that 80% of automobile accidents can be prevented if vehicles are given the ability to communicate with each other (see article, Detroit Free Press).

This “vehicle-to-vehicle” communication and related technologies can be used to implement crash-warning systems, and lane departure alerts. According to the NHTSA’s Administrator:

Our research shows that these technologies could help prevent a majority of the collisions that typically occur in the real world, such as rear-end collisions, intersection crashes, or collisions while switching lanes.

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distracted driving accident attorney.jpgU.S. Secretary Ray LaHood is continuing his crusade against cell phones and upping the ante, proposing a nationwide ban talking, texting and e-mailing while driving. His latest forum (see the news story by Reuters) was a distracted driving summit in Texas last week. His main argument centers around the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s estimate of 3,000 fatal traffic accidents in 2011, caused by distracted driving. The NHTSA also states that cell phone use delays reactions just as much as a BAC of 0.08.

According to LaHood:

It used to be that if an officer pulled you over for drunk driving, he would pat you on the back, maybe call you a cab or take you home, but he wouldn’t arrest you. Now that has changed, and the same enforcement can work for people who talk on cell phones while driving.

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distracted driving accident attorney.jpgThough it is aimed primarily at parents of new drivers, many cell phone carriers and other services are offering technological solutions to distracted driving. The basic premise is that cell phones can be automatically deactivated, or some functions can be automatically deactivated, when the phones internal GPS system detects the device moving at a specified rate of speed.

Some of the programs automatically route incoming calls to voicemail, and send automatic replies to text messages. Most of the teenage programs can be set to send notifications to parents when the features are disabled

Some products, like FleetSafer, are designed for adults and also eliminate the ability to send and receive e-mails, and use internet browsers, while behind the wheel. T-Mobile, Sprint and AT&T all have products that work on some of their phones.