Tag Archives: ban on texting and driving

Despite the Risks of Distracted Driving Indiana Lawmakers Lack the Resolve to Ban Handheld Cell Phones

Despite the Risks of Distracted Driving Indiana Lawmakers Lack the Resolve to Ban Handheld Cell Phones

A study by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), in partnership with Virginia Tech shows texting while driving (TWD) is on the rise for the age group between 16 and 24 year olds. Texting and driving personal injury and auto accident lawyer in IndianapolisStatistically, teens are more likely to die in a car accident than by suicide, homicide or cancer. Locally, Sherry Deane of AAA Hoosier Motor Club has reported to The Journal Gazette that the fatality rate for drivers between 18 and 21 is on the rise while the rate has dropped for those younger than 18 ¾ largely crediting the decrease in Indiana’s graduated driving provisions.

The Courage to Ban Cell Phone Use for Indiana’s Minors and Young Adults

A law took effect two years ago that would prohibit anyone under the age of 21 from using a telecommunications device, including a hands-free or Bluetooth device, while operating a motor vehicle, i.e. a ban on cell phone use for young adults under the age of 21. The law stipulated, however, in the case of a bona fide emergency, a call to 911 would be allowed. This implies, although it does not specifically state (see Indiana Code 9-24-11-3.7), that cell phones may be allowed within the motor vehicle for the purpose of a 911 emergency. Licensed drivers under the age of 21 who were previously permitted to use a cell phone or hands-free Bluetooth device prior to July 1, 2015, were not grandfathered in.

Ironically, several lawmakers who voted for House Bill 1394, but did not read or comprehend the cell phone ban for drivers under 21 years old, were stunned when they heard about the contents of the bill on the news. Even the spokesman for the Indiana Bureau of Motor Vehicles, Josh Gillespie, found the passage of the telecommunications bill was a “shocker” to him.

Whether you agree or disagree with Indiana Code 9-24-11-3.7, it is the law of the land and it is unlikely to be changed as lawmakers are working their way, albeit ever so slowly, toward a bill that would reduce the number and severity of crashes caused by adults who are distracted by their cell phones while operating a motor vehicle.

The Future of Anti-Texting Laws in Indiana

State by state, HandsFreeInfo.com keeps tabs on proposed bills and the passage of laws concerning distracted driving issues and texting while driving. Since 2008, certain Indiana state senators and representatives have submitted bills that would keep pace with the technology by classifying the degree of offenses and discouraging the use of telecommunicative hand-held devices. The most recent effort in 2017, House Bill 1255: requires a person to use hands free or voice operated technology to place or receive a telephone call while operating a moving motor vehicle unless the device is used to call 911 to report a bona fide emergency. In the Fiscal and Management Analysis, it is expected that citations for distracted driving offenses would mainly come as the result of a motor vehicle accident. In other words, officers would be unlikely to issue citations for distracted driving offences prior to the occurrence of an accident. The proposed bill would not address cell phone use for applications other than making a telephone call.

Even though the U.S. Department of Transportation says cell phones are involved in 1.6 million crashes a year, causing half a million injuries and taking 6,000 lives, few lawmakers have submitted bills with a total ban on hand-held cell phone or telecommunication devices. Blue tooth devices are inexpensive and allow every smartphone owner to utilize the hands-free technology to place phone calls and send text messages without ever picking up the device. In 2014, one senator went on the record stating “I don’t think that realistically a handheld ban will ever happen, because of the independence of the Hoosier.”

What is Wrong with our Current “No Texting While Driving” Law?

The current law on texting while driving, IC 9-21-8-59(a), was signed by Governor Mitch Daniels on May 10, 2011. The wording of the law (as of this writing, July, 2017) restricts the offense to the reading, writing and sending of text messages, aka wireless messaging, or electronic mail also known as email, while a vehicle is in motion:

Sec. 59.

(a) A person may not use a telecommunications device to:

(1) type a text message or an electronic mail message;

(2) transmit a text message or an electronic mail message;  or

(3) read a text message or an electronic mail message;

while operating a moving motor vehicle unless the device is used in conjunction with hands free or voice operated technology, or unless the device is used to call 911 to report a bona fide emergency.

The law further reads:

(b) A police officer may not, without the consent of the person:

(1) confiscate a telecommunications device for the purpose of determining compliance with this section;

(2) confiscate a telecommunications device and retain it as evidence pending trial for a violation of this section; or

(3) extract or otherwise download information from a telecommunications device for a violation of this section unless:

(A) the police officer has probable cause to believe that the telecommunications device has been used in the commission of a crime;

(B) the information is extracted or otherwise downloaded under a valid search warrant;or

(C) otherwise authorized by law.

It should come as no surprise that few tickets have been written by law enforcement for the offense of texting while driving because of the difficulty in determining what the driver is actually doing on his or her phone. As the law stands now, there are thousands of applications besides texting that people may legally pursue while operating a motor vehicle in the state of Indiana. Under the current law, setting GPS, retrieving and playing music, playing video games, watching movies and surfing the Internet are all within the boundaries of the law.

Although Indiana jumped on the nationwide bandwagon in 2011 by passing legislation banning texting and driving, the Indiana assembly has yet to exercise their will barring the use of hand-held devices. In 2016, it became clear to both Indiana lawmakers and law enforcement officers where the Court of Appeals stood on Indiana’s TWD law.

Of What Use is Indiana’s No Texting Law if it has No Teeth?

In the case of United States of America v Gregorio Paniagua-Garcia, a police officer stopped Mr. P-G (for brevity) after passing him on the interstate highway. The officer described Mr. P-G’s head as being close to the phone; the officer thought he was texting while driving. Mr. P-G told the officer he was searching for music. After questioning the driver of the vehicle for a few minutes, the officer asked if he could search the car and permission to do so was granted. Five pounds of heroin were discovered in the spare tire of the car’s trunk.

Mr. P-G was charged and tried in federal court. When the defendant’s motion to suppress the evidence (heroin) was denied, the defendant reserved his right to appeal by claiming the evidence was obtained during an illegal stop. On appeal, the United States government conceded a stop is legal “only if the officer has probable cause to believe that a traffic violation has occurred or reasonable suspicion that a crime was about to be or has been committed,” United States of America v Gregorio Paniagua-Garcia.

The government was unable to establish that the officer had probable cause to stop the defendant or a reasonable suspicion that he had violated the no-texting law. Why? Because the officer had not seen Mr. P-G texting; the officer testified that he thought he was texting while driving. And what he did see (Mr. P-G’s head close to the phone) was consistent with many other lawful uses of cell phones. On a side note, it was revealed at trial and conceded by the government that the defendant had not been texting when the officer saw him on the interstate highway; he was indeed searching for music.

This case is a complex illustration of the ineffectiveness of our current no-texting laws. Because our laws do not address the use of other smart phone apps, and because law enforcement is explicitly prohibited from downloading cell phone information or confiscating cell phones for purposes of evidence, their hands are bound and little more can be done but rely upon the truthfulness of the driver when asked, or hand out warning tickets to those drivers suspected of texting behind the wheel of a moving vehicle.

In the opinion of the 3-judge appeals panel, for the above-referenced case, it states:

“Indiana is right to be worried about the dangers created by persons who fiddle with their cellphones while driving, but probably wrong to outlaw such fiddling only with respect to texting…”

Go with an Experienced Personal Injury Attorney to Handle Your Claim for Injuries or Wrongful Death

A ticket for violating Indiana’s anti-texting law may cost the offender up to $500. On the other hand, in a civil claim for personal injuries or wrongful death due to the negligence of an individual, small business or corporate entity, a discovery request to obtain cell phone records may firmly establish liability on the part of the other driver when he or she failed to yield or otherwise caused the accident responsible for the injuries or death of you or your loved one.

Ward & Ward Law Firm has more in 85 years of experience in the successful litigation of claims for personal injury and wrongful death. We agressively pursue the compensation you or your loved one deserves.

If you or someone you know has been injured or killed in an accident involving a car, truck, bus, bicycle or motorcycle, call attorneys with experience in personal injury accident claims and an up-to-date working knowledge of the laws and legal opinions of the higher courts, all of which may affect your lawsuit, settlement or trial.

Read our reviews on Google then call me, Charlie Ward, today for a free consultation and evaluation of your potential claim at (317) 639-9501 or toll free at (888) 639-9501. I look forward to talking with you.

Charlie Ward

Ward & Ward Law Firm
728 S Meridian St
Indianapolis, IN 46225
317-639-9501 or  toll free at 1 (888) 639-9501
Published 7-21-17

 

Cell Phone Manufacturers Walk a Fine Line between Social and Personal Responsibility – Car accident lawyers

 Cell Phone Manufacturers Walk a Fine Line between Social and Personal Responsibility – Car Accident Lawyers Ward & Ward Law Firm

Pressure is being put on cell phone manufacturers to include “lock-out” technology in their mobile devices to prevent drivers from accessing certain features while driving. Who bears the responsibility for car accident injuries and fatalities caused by distracted drivers? What are the options parents can employ to keep their children safe when driving?

 The product liability case against Apple – a result of a catastrophic car accident

Several years ago, on a summer day in East Texas, 21 year old Ashley Kubiak caused a catastrophic car accident while driving her pickup and checking for messages on her iPhone. The collision left a boy of seven who loved playing team baseball, a paraplegic. The young boy, Sammy Lane Meador, was told by physicians he would never walk again as his spine had snapped in the collision. His grandmother and great aunt perished in the accident. The families of the accident victims joined together to bring a product liability case against Apple, entitled Meador, et al vs. Apple, Inc.

Discovery revealed…

Personal injury lawyers, Don and Charlie WardDuring the discovery process it was revealed that in 2008 Apple had petitioned for and later received a technology patent called “Driver Handheld Computing Device Lock-Out.” In the documentation submitted to the patent office, a description of the technology read, “a lock-out mechanism to prevent operation of one or more functions of handheld computing devices by drivers when operating vehicles.”

The plaintiffs argue that while Apple was fully aware their phones would be used for text messaging while driving, and even used this reasoning in their patent application, Apple did nothing to prevent Ms. Kubiak, an iPhone consumer, from illegally texting behind the wheel. Plaintiffs’ attorneys argue Apple has a moral obligation to society to employ the patented technology in their cell phones. Plaintiffs’ attorney, Greg Love, states “When companies are faced with the choice of doing the right thing or doing the cheaper thing, they tend to do the cheaper thing until they’re forced to do the right thing.”

In 2014, Apple received the patent which uses sensors to determine if the phone is moving and in use by a driver, and employs the lock-out features for such functions as sending and receiving texts, email, social media posts and notifications. However, since 2014 (the year Apple was granted the patent), the company has distributed the iPhone 5s, 5c, 6, 6+, 7, 7+ and a number of IOS software updates. Yet, the technology has never been deployed. Nor has any other cell phone manufacturer incorporated the technology into their phones.

Car accident lawyers are disturbed by this survey

Distracted driving includes any behavior that takes your attention away from the operation of the vehicle. In 2015, Erie Insurance conducted an online survey consisting of 2,019 respondents 18 years and older. Their motive? To learn the kind of distracted behaviors their clients had engaged while driving their vehicle. You won’t believe what respondents admitted to:

  • Styling hair (15%)
  • Romantic interlude (15%)
  • Changing clothes (9%)
  • Changing drivers (3%)
  • Taking selfies (4%)
  • Flossing / brushing teeth (4%)
  • Going to the bathroom (3%)
  • Texting while driving (30%)

Disturbing statistics, all! But note that nearly 1/3 of adults taking this survey admitted to texting while driving. This is especially alarming because text messaging behind the wheel diverts four primary modalities necessary for a focused driving experience:

  • Vision
  • Auditory
  • Cognitive thinking, reasoning skills
  • Manual/tactile cell phone use

In 2014, three thousand one hundred seventy nine teen  fatalities in the U.S. were caused by drivers who momentarily diverted their attention from the safe operation of their motor vehicle; 3,179 needless fatalities – 6,358 grieving parents, in addition to siblings, grandparents and other grievous kin.

Texting fatalities have surpassed fatalities caused by alcohol

Between 2011, when no state bans existed for texting, and 2013, after 14 states passed legislation banning texting while driving, texting rates declined from 43% to 30%. Today, 46 continental states have banned text messaging for all drivers. But in reviewing data from the Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance Survey, approximately 1 in 3 teens readily admits to texting behind the wheel. And while fatalities resulting from drunk driving have decreased, teen deaths attributed to texting while driving have surpassed teen fatalities caused by drinking and driving.

Did you know?

  • On average, the amount of time eyes are off the road when texting is 5 seconds
  • The distance covered in 5 seconds at 55 mph is the length of a football field

One in three teens admits to texting and driving

Understanding the myths that fuel texting and driving

Myth No. 1 – The fear of missing out (FOMO)

In 2016, FOMO, an acronym for “the fear of missing out,” was ushered into the Merriam-Webster dictionary along with other words and acronyms implying social disconnect such as nomophobia (fear of being without a cell phone) and ICYMI (in case you missed it.) FOMO demonstrates an anxiety of epidemic proportions that keeps smart phone users continuously checking their phone for messages, news, announcements, tweets or feeds. The underlying principle of FOMO hints that the current moment in time is never good enough and can always be improved by hooking up with friends, making an announcement on Twitter, posting a response to Facebook, uploading a photo of your present activity, announcing your location or commenting on developments. The fear of missing out is a compulsive and addictive behavioral response.

In an interview with media, Jack Walker, attorney for the plaintiffs in the above-mentioned case, echoed scientific findings when he stated a person’s response to a cell phone notification is a “neurobiological response from the brain, it basically triggers the pleasure centers of the brain with a shot of dopamine… people do it so frequently, they don’t even realize it’s happening.”

Myth No. 2 – Multi-tasking

How many times have you heard someone say, I’m multi-tasking? This meme endorses the lie that self-esteem and social worthiness are awarded to those who can split tasks and perform double the work in half the time. In fact, multi-tasking is the antagonist of deep intellectual thinking. The belief that we can focus our attention on multiple, simultaneous tasks, each involving conscious control — is fiction. Our brains are not wired to focus intently on multiple concurrent thoughts. What we typically call multi-tasking actually involves a cerebral interruption and restart between tasks. Best selling author, Dr. John Medina, a developmental molecular biologist and research consultant states “The brain naturally focuses on concepts sequentially, one at a time.”

From an article published in The Scientific American: “Some commonplace activities, such as driving and talking on a cell phone frequently go hand-in-hand, but the brain is likely switching its main focus quickly between the two activities, perhaps a reason the pairing has been so dangerous.”

Personal responsibility v social responsibility – The motion to dismiss the product liability lawsuit

In 2015, Apple filed a motion to dismiss the product liability claim. Defendant Apple stated in court documents that it was not the iPhone that caused the accident but the lack of personal responsibility shown by Ms. Kubiak. Apple further claims, eating while driving would encourage future product liability suits against fast food manufacturers as a result of plaintiffs’ argument. The Federal judge assigned to the case signed a recommendation to dismiss the case. The recommendation states in part: “…Apple’s failure to configure the iPhone to automatically disable did nothing more than create the condition that made Plaintiffs’ injuries possible.” Nevertheless, the case is still pending in United States District Court.

At this time, there isn’t a cell phone manufacturer or mobile service provider that wants to market the first mobile phone that clamps down on distracted driving behaviors. Similar to change through legislation, modifications in the free market are slowly evolving and will require pressure from consumers, special interest groups and the success of product liability lawsuits brought against cell phone manufacturers going forward.

Apps for restoring peace of mind

Following is a short list of Apps that may help curb the temptation to initiate, read and respond to text messages and social network posts and notifications. They are in no particular order; what works for one family, may not be effective for another. Browse through the apps to determine what works best to protect you and your family or try them all until you find the app that suits your lifestyle. Most apps are available for download at Google Play for Android devices or the App store for iPhones. I have noted when the applications are downloadable from the developer’s website.

AT&T DriveMode (Free)
Available for IPhone and Android devices. Full features are available to AT&T Mobile customers; limited features for all other users.

  • Turns on when the vehicle is moving
  • Access music and navigation with one touch
  • Silences text message alerts
  • Automatically replies to text messages

Parents are alerted if:

  • AT&T DriveMode is turned off
  • Auto-Mode is disabled
  • New speed-dial number is added

Life Saver – Distracted Driving (Free)
Available for IPhone and Android devices. Optional rewards based technology. Sponsor sets guidelines and monitors behavior. App is endorsed by a number of safe driving organizations.

  • Blocks phone use while driving
  • gets driver’s last known location
  • Safe arrival notifications
  • Can share with others
Video – How Life Saver works
Video – Life Saver screen – is it user friendly?

True Motion Family (Formerly The Canary Project – Free)
Available for IPhone and Android. Score based, includes location sharing and roadside assistance.

Wonder (Available at developer website)
The message center displays either a “driving” or “safe to text” icon next to each person’s name.

Drive Beehive (Free)
Available for IPhone and Android devices. Rewards safe driving miles; requires a sponsor.

Experienced car accident lawyers and wrongful death attorneys

Our experienced car accident lawyers and wrongful death attorneys use their knowledge of the law, legislation and judicial opinions to employ strategies that maximize our clients’ financial recovery after they have experienced a life-altering accident or event caused by another person or entity. If you or someone you know has been involved in an accident, injured by the negligence of a medical professional, or the victim of nursing home neglect or wrongful death, call personal injury attorney, Charlie Ward, today at (317) 639-9501 for a free consultation.

Charlie Ward
Personal Injury Attorney
728 S Meridian St
Indianapolis, IN 46225
(317) 639-9501
cpw@wardlawfirm.com

Update 8/29/17:  Apple’s Failure to Implement a Lock-Out System

David Riggs’ son was killed in an accident when another driver was texting on his I-phone.  A Suit was brought against Apple for failure to implement a lock-out system – technology Apple has had since 2008.

Santa Clara County Superior Court Judge Maureen A. Folan threw the case out because to allege Apple was the cause of the ultimate harm to Riggs son was thin and attenuated.

More updates to follow.

Auto Accident Lawyer in Indianapolis | Texting While Driving

Young businessman on the phone
Personal injury attorneys see rise in accidents caused by distracted drivers | The auto accident lawyer

In 2012, approximately 420,000 people were injured and 3,300 killed as a result of distracted drivers. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), that was about 10% higher than the year before.Call Charlie Ward at 317-639-9501

Texting while driving is becoming the most common cause of distracted driving and these numbers will continue to rise. Although to date, 44 states have banned texting while driving, resulting accidents have not diminished.  A Pew Research study shows that younger women are more likely to be involved in an accident because of texting while driving:

“In a study comparing boys texting behaviors to girls, Pew Research found, on average, girls typically send and receive 80 texts a day while boys send and receive 30.”

And these numbers are not on the decline.

A few states (Mississippi, Missouri, Oklahoma and Texas) have banned inexperienced drivers from texting. In January, 2017, a senate committee in Arizona proposed a 6-month ban on the use of communication electronic devices for teen licensees.  As reported by The Arizona Republic: “The bill calls for a $75 fine and a 30-day extension of the six-month limit on a teen’s graduated driver’s license for the first offense.”  There are no such restrictions in Montana.

It is estimated that 660,000 drivers use their cell phones and/or manipulate electronic devices at any given daylight moment while driving according to the NHTSA. Distracted drivers in many instances run red lights, cross center lines in the roadway and rear end vehicles in front of them. Young drivers do NOT understand the concept of time and distance.  It only takes a few seconds – eyes off the road –  and it is too late to avoid an accident.

Early education may reduce auto accidents, injuries and deaths

Teaching young and inexperienced drivers about the dangers of texting while driving will minimize accidents and prevent serious injuries as well as loss of lives.  Placing the cell phone out of reach or turning off the cell phone while driving is recommended.  In addition, passengers should be made aware of the dangers and try to prevent texting while driving by assisting the driver with any necessary cell phone use.  If you are a passenger, remind the driver not to reach for the cell phone – it can wait until later.

Experienced personal injury attorneys and auto accident lawyer litigate distracted driver cases

It is apparent after some accidents that the cause of the crash was a driver distracted by a cell phone and possibly texting while driving. Officers may include this information in their police report as the official cause of the collision. But if it has not been determined at the scene of the accident, a good private investigator employed by your attorney may be able to uncover this information on your behalf. Further, your experienced personal injury lawyer  might reveal this relevant fact during the discovery process when cell phone records may be obtained. In addition, witnesses to the accident may be of help in their eye-witness testimony.

If there is reason to believe the defendant driver was distracted by their cell phone and possibly texting, a lawyer experienced in personal injury cases will use every resource to investigate. Indiana has a law that bans texting while driving and the personal injury attorneys at Ward & Ward Law Firm  will leverage the law on your behalf.

Call Charlie Ward today at 317-639-9501 if you or someone you know was injured or killed in a collision caused by a texting driver.

By Charlie Ward

Ward & Ward Law Firm
728 S Meridian St
Indianapolis, IN 46225
317-639-9501