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PUT DOWN YOUR PHONE! While driving, walking, or doing anything else.

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The advent of cell phones and then smart phones has created a technological revolution that has changed our society, many will argue for the better. One of those changes however, is not for the better. Cell phone use while driving has created a plague of distracted driving accidents. The latest statistics from the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration shows that distracted driving has resulted in crashes causing almost 400,000.00 injuries and almost 3,500 deaths. A study found that cell phone use while driving might be as or more dangerous than driving with a blood alcohol level at the legal limit. Having a cell phone conversation slows driver reaction time by 18%, while alcohol (at a concentration in the blood of 0.08 weight/volume) slows reaction time by 12%.10 Another study suggests that texting while driving might be more dangerous than driving under the influence of cannabis; texting slows driver reactions by 35% while cannabis slows reactions by 21%.17 Unfortunately, while most drivers would not even consider driving under the influence of alcohol or cannabis, many use their cell phones while driving despite knowing the risks.

This problem has resulted in many states passing laws banning the use of hand held cell phones while driving. In surrounding jurisdictions, any use of a hand held cell phone while driving is illegal. In Virginia, only certain uses of a cell phone are illegal while driving: all drivers are banned from text messaging, drivers under the age of 18 are prohibited from using cell phones or text messaging, and commercial drivers and school bus drivers are prohibited from holding cell phones and text messaging. Unfortunately a proposed law banning hand held cell phone use entirely failed to pass this year. Even in the presence of laws banning the use of handheld cell phones while driving, drivers continue to use cell phones and continue to drive while distracted. The carnage caused by distracted driving will likely continue until technology itself finds the solution.

Another significant problem that arises from the distractions caused by cell phone use is injury to the person using the cell phone. Single car crashes can occur. Pedestrians walking while distracted can be injured by walking into objects, walking into the path of vehicles, or stepping into hazardous conditions. Not paying attention to one’s surroundings is contributory negligence. A distracted person cannot complain that an injury occurred due to the negligence of another if they were not paying attention themselves and could have avoided injury if they were paying attention.

Distracted drivers who cause accidents resulting in injuries or death may be prosecuted for their actions. They will also be liable to pay for damages to those they injure. If the police do not document distracted driving, it is possible to discover whether the distracted driver was using their cell phone at the time of a crash. Sometimes, a forensic analysis of the cell phone can be performed to discover if it was being used. The law firm of Weiner, Spivey & Miller have extensive experience seeking compensation for drivers, motorcyclists, bicyclists, and pedestrians injured due to distracted drivers. Do not let yourself be the one who causes the crash. Be aware of your surroundings at all times and if you suspect that another driver is driving while distracted, keep your distance and use your horn to alert them. And if you think another driver is driving dangerously, alert the police if you can do so safely.

By: Eugene C. Miller, Esq.

Maura Weiner