Lawyer 2 Lawyer

Texting While Driving and the Law

 

Texting while driving is a growing danger on American roads.  Every day, people are severely injured and even killed by these distracted drivers.  Lawyer2Lawyer co-hosts and attorneys, Bob Ambrogi and Craig Williams, get the legal lowdown on texting while driving laws and recent high-profile cases, including one where both parties involved in a texting conversation were sued from Attorney Matthew Weiss from Weiss & Associates, PCAttorney Robert M. Schartz from the firm of Abrahams Kaslow & Cassman LLP and from Attorney Stephen “Skippy” Weinstein, a personal injury attorney at Stephen S. Weinstein, PC.

For more information on the dangers of texting while driving go to:

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  • http://www.focusdriven.org Rob R

    What’s interesting about this discussion is that we’ve had it before as a nation in discussing another sort of driver choice and personal responsibility: drinking and driving. At one time in the not so distant past it used to be common place to boldly drink past sobriety, then be offered “one more for the road!” by friends or the bar you were at, and then load up the family and wearily drive home. All the while making frequent lane departures, crossing the center line, and many times resulting in crashing into stationary objects or other vehicles, causing property damage, medical expenses and loss of life.

    The outcome of that was instituting .08 BAC as the per se legal limit across the US for all drivers and instituting mandatory investigation techniques for detecting impairment at high visbility traffic stops and serious crashes- and then punishing those at or above .08.

    The increased risk of driving at .08 BAC is 4 times above that of a sober driver. The vast majority of research into distracted driving puts TALKING on a phone at the same risk level, and the same research shows no benefit for hands free devices.

    As a nation we are refusing to acknowledge that we know this to be true- in fact we are going out of our way to say that we don’t know it spending huge sums of $$ to perform more studies to make sure that the numbers are correct.

    The DOT has come right out and said it- they will only acknowledge the results of naturalistic data to determine crash risk. So why is that?

    There are basically 3 ways to study distracted driving: scientific studies (which set up controlled studies and environments to measure very specific performance behaviors); epidemiological studies (which investigate crashes after they occur and correlate the driver’s behavior to the crash itself, such as cell phone use); and naturalistic studies (these studies load up vehicles with cameras and sensors, then put test subjects in them and ask that they drive as they normally would. Then on the occasion where the test-drivers might be involved in near crashes or actual crashes, researchers examine the physical data to try to determine what the driver was doing just before that).

    Unfortunately, as was the case in addressing drinking while driving, Scientific studies (of which the most research has been conducted) offer the most compelling evidence in assessing distracted driving risk as they look at physical evidence (what can be seen or observed by a researcher), but also factor in the distraction of the mind as well which is not something that naturalistic studies are designed to do.

    Moreover, most of the scientific data and epidemiological data agree that talking on a phone, hands free or hand held, increases crash risk for the driver 4 times above that of a normal driver- which matches our national tolerance for increased driver risk with .08 BAC.

    The decision to focus only on naturalistic data to ‘address’ the issue of cell phone/electronic distracted driving has led to the proliferation of elaborate and highly distracting infotainment systems being introduced by every major auto manufacture,r because these studies will conclude that if you eyes are on the road and your hands are on the wheel, then you are safe (no mater what the nature of your call may be, the email you are composing or the text, or the application).

    The DOT is also suggesting voluntary guidelines for auto manufacturers to implement these systems so that we can all access Twitter or Facebook, get a table at a restaurant or something equally as inane while driving. However these are clearly NOT safety devices; they are devices that simply enable the behavior. None of them have anything to do with the safe operation of a car and will ultimately just introduce more distractions to the driver than they may previously had never considered doing, before seeing it built into a newer vehicle that is.

    To be clear, no call, no text, tweet, movie or table reservation, web search or any other entertainment based function is worth a human life. They are not critical to safe driving and in fact are the cause of many crashes.

    These are driver choices that result in vehicles leaving their lane, crossing the center line, hitting stationary objects, pedestrians and other vehicles causing millions in property damages each year, medical expenses for victims and perpetrators alike, and the preventable loss of thousands of lives. Sounds familiar?

    Impairment = impairment and it doesn’t matter if your impairment is sustained (as is the case with drunk driving) or temporary (as in the case when diving while using a cell phone/mobile electronics.) Drivers choose this behavior and the results are often times devastating. Take a pledge to stop all cell use while driving and support increased distracted driving legislation in your community and nationwide. The longer we wait, the more we all lose.

  • Tami

    I’m currently having to go to court because I was stopped for “texting while driving. No, there was no accident. No, there was no speeding… No, there was nothing else. The officer simply stopped me because he felt that he saw my phone in my hand and my “thumb moving around her smart phone.” I have a qwerty slide phone that is held with 2 hands to text, and NO smartphone at all. I had nothing in my hands… My text records reflect this as well, but I doubt they will allow me to submit those– I’m not an attorney, so I have no protection. I work for my local mental health center, and could lose my job over this accusatory “reckless driving” ticket. I agree completely that texting while driving is a terrible idea, but it’s also completely unfair and not ok that I’m being dragged into court over an officer’s claim he saw my “thumbs moving.” Help?