DRIVING WHILE IMPAIRED | CELL PHONE USE WHILE DRIVING | TEXTING WHILE DRIVING
On January 11, 2010 the New York Times, in its “Technology” section, published some interesting, yet disturbing, statistics: 11% of drivers, at any one time, talk on their cell phones while driving (per a federal study); Drivers using cell phones cause 2600 deaths each year (per a Harvard study)*; 570,000 accidents causing minor and major injuries are the result of cell phone usage (Harvard study);
With the growing awareness by Americans of the hazards of cell phone usage in cars, the NYTimes also found (in a NYT/CBS NEWS poll) that 50% of Americans hold the view that texting and driving should be punished at least as harshly as drunk driving.
This attitude is fortified by published studies indicating that drivers using cell phones are four times more likely to have an accident than other drivers. In fact, the likelihood that someone using a cell phone will crash has been shown to equal that of a driver with a .08 percent blood alcohol level, the level considered “impaired” in many, if not most, states.
While the dangers of cell phones usage, in ALL its forms, is well established (texting, hands free, hand held),
no state has banned the use of cell phones while driving entirely. The most that has been restricted is the use of hand held devices. Federal employees are not allowed to text while driving, pursuant to an executive order issued by President Obama.
For the Personal Injury Attorney, the issue of distracted or impaired driving while using a cell phone has become an entirely new area to be investigated in automobile accident cases. This is also a new area for litigation and discovery. There will, undoubtedly, be judges across the country that will be reluctant to permit opposing parties access to the cell phone records of their adversaries. Nevertheless, as knowledge about the horrific hazards cell phone usage poses while driving becomes more widespread, our courts will hopefully expand dramatically their tolerance for the discovery of cell phone records.
Currently, any experienced Personal Injury attorney will make every effort to obtain cell phone records of an opposing party if there is the slightest indication that cell phone usage may have been a contributing cause of the accident involved.
*Transportation Secretary LaHood states the annual death toll from cell phone distraction amounts to 5,800