Car Accidents and Electronic Devices
In today’s world, technology has become an essential aspect of one’s daily life. The advent of computers, tablets, cell phones, GPS units, and other electronic devices has greatly changed the way that individuals engage in everyday activities, such as shopping, communicating, and especially driving. As a result, there has been a sharp increase in the number of accidents involving the use of mobile electronic devices while driving. Subsequently, the amount of fatalities and injuries resulting from these incidents and the number of personal injury lawsuits has also risen.
Today, regulations pertaining to cell phone usage while driving differ according to state laws. Although no states completely outlaw the use of cell phones when operating motor vehicles, many have certain restrictions regarding their usage. As of June 2012, ten states as well as Washington, D.C.; Guam; and the U.S. Virgin Islands strictly prohibit the use of handheld cell phones while operating motor vehicles. Additionally, in 32 states and Washington, D.C., all beginner drivers are banned from using cell phones while driving. School bus drivers are also banned from using cell phones while operating buses carrying passengers in 19 states and Washington, D.C.
Next, text messaging while driving is addressed under different statutes. In 39 states plus Washington, D.C.; Guam; and the U.S. Virgin Islands, all drivers are forbidden from text messaging while driving. In other states, the application of texting bans differ based on the age of the individual driving, the profession of the driver (such as a public transportation driver), and various other factors.
For example, Massachusetts has enforced laws that prohibit both talking on the phone and texting for “junior operators,” or drivers who are 16.5 to 18 years of age. In regards to these laws, the first offense fines the driver $100, imposes a 60-day license suspension, and requires the driver to take a course and an exam. The second offense comes with a $250 fine and 180-day license suspension. A third offense fines an individual $500 and results in a one-year license suspension.
In California, the law currently states that adult drivers can only use hands-free cell phone devices, and it strictly prohibits the action of texting while driving. The base fines for using a handheld mobile device or texting while driving are as follows: $20 for the first offense and $50 for subsequent tickets of the same offense. For more information regarding a specific state’s legislation, view the table on the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety website (http://www.iihs.org/laws/cellphonelaws.aspx).
In New York specifically, the current laws state the following: all forms of text messaging and other uses of handheld cell phones are strictly prohibited; adult drivers can only make calls with approved hands-free devices while in motion; taxi drivers are banned from using cell phones while driving, regardless of the technology they use. In addition, laws restricting cell phone use while driving are of primary enforcement. This means that a police officer can pull an individual over for using a cell phone while driving even if the person has not engaged in any other traffic offense at the same time.
Given these increased restrictions added to the legislation on distracted driving in 2011, police officers have placed a far greater focus on ticketing drivers that are using mobile devices. The consequences of violating laws restricting cell phone usage include a two-point violation on one’s license. Additionally, the penalty for text messaging while driving is a $150 fine.
The average New Yorker is well aware of the fact that using handheld cell phones while driving is strictly prohibited by the law. More than just being illegal, actions such as texting, using an iPad, or operating a GPS device while driving are greatly distracting and threaten the lives of innocent people nearby. If you or someone you love has been harmed by one of these or a similarly dangerous distraction, it is important to investigate your legal rights and options.
The person who is injured as a result of another individual using an electronic device while driving has the ability to claim that negligence contributed to the accident. Negligence, as used in the legal system in terms of driving, refers to the idea that the party at fault for the incident unintentionally acted in a way that detracted from their duty to drive safely. This typically requires an investigation of the events going on at the time of the accident.
One method of gathering this information involves examining the history that is left on the electronic devices that may or may not have contributed to the accident. This could lead to unveiling the truth about driver’s actions. Technology allows law enforcement officials to retrieve records of past calls, text messages, internet usage, GPS use, and other such actions. Thus, this method of investigation allows police, attorneys, judges, and other law enforcement agencies to correctly and appropriately penalize the people engaging in this behavior while driving.
Besides taking advantage of the history that is stored on electronics to hold distracted drivers accountable for their actions, it is necessary to find an effective method of preventing such accidents. Parents, educators, and employers can play an instrumental role in teaching the public of the potential dangers that using electronic devices while driving presents. Such individuals can also educate drivers regarding the possible repercussions of distracted driving as a result of using such devices. In learning about the potential harm that such actions can cause to oneself, such as jail time, fines, and job loss, as well as the possible damage to others, including death or injury, people may be dissuaded from operating a vehicle while using electronic devices.
If you or someone you know has been the victim in an auto accident involving distracted driving as a result of electronic devices, contact the New York car accident lawyers of Hach & Rose, LLP, today.