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Class Action Calls for Lockout Technology to Prevent Texting While Driving

Jan 20, 2017
Lawsuit Calls for Technology to Prevent Texting & Driving

In a class action lawsuit, a California driver alleges that Apple's failure to deploy technology that prevents drivers from texting on their iPhones while driving has contributed to the current epidemic of injuries and deaths due to distracted driving.

The California man says that while waiting at a stoplight, he was rear-ended by a driver who was texting on her iPhone, Fortune reports. He suffered a back injury and his car was damaged in the crash, according to the legal complaint.

The plaintiff wants a judge to halt iPhone sales in California until Apple enables the "lockout" feature to stop drivers from using their phones, Fortune reports.

The lawsuit was filed in a state court in Los Angeles. The suit claims that Apple's failure to activate the lockout feature is a violation of California's consumer protection laws. The plaintiff seeks to include other accident victims in the class action, according to Fortune.

The attorneys at Parker Waichman work to stay up to date with research and legislation on driving behavior and can answer questions from individuals who want information about filing a distracted-driving lawsuit.

As evidence that Apple could prevent drivers from texting while driving, the lawsuit cites Apple's patent application, U.S. Patent 8706143, filed in 2008. The patent was awarded in 2014 for "Driver Handheld Computer Lockout Device." The patent describes a way to disable handheld computing devices using a "motion analyzer" and "scenery analyzer." The lawsuit also cites statistics that purportedly show texting and driving has become a bigger menace than impaired driving. Without providing firm evidence, the lawsuit says there are 52,000 accidents in California every year as a result of iPhones, and that 16 people die on U.S. roads every day as a result of texting and driving. The attorney who filed the legal complaint said, "legislating" against drivers will not solve the problem, because the "relationship consumers have with their phones is just too great. . . Embedding a lock-out device in the phone is the only solution."

What is Distracted Driving?

What is Distracted Driving?

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) defines distracted driving as "any activity that could divert a person's attention away from the primary task of driving. All distractions endanger driver, passenger, and bystander safety." Distractions noted by NHTSA include:

  • texting
  • using a cell phone or smartphone
  • eating and drinking
  • talking to passengers
  • grooming
  • reading, including maps
  • using a navigation system
  • watching a video
  • adjusting a radio, CD player, or MP3 player

But NHTSA says text messaging is "by far the most alarming distraction" because it requires visual, manual, and cognitive attention from the driver. When texting while driving, the average time the driver's eyes are off the road is five seconds, enough time for a car traveling at 55mph to cover the length of a football field.

On the web page Distraction.gov, NHTSA says that in 2014, 3,179 people were killed, and 431,000 were injured in motor vehicle crashes involving distracted drivers. Ten percent of all drivers 15 to 19 years old involved in fatal crashes were reported to be distracted at the time of the crashes. This age group has the largest proportion of drivers who were distracted at the time of the crashes. NHTSA statistics show drivers in their twenties are 23 percent of drivers in all fatal crashes, but are 27 percent of the distracted drivers and 38 percent of the distracted drivers who were using cell phones in fatal crashes.

The percentage of drivers texting or visibly manipu¬lating handheld devices increased from 1.7 percent in 2013 to 2.2 percent in 2014, NHTSA reports. In the last decade, younger drivers (age 16 to 24) have been observed manipulating electronic devices at higher rates than older drivers. With the steady proliferation of smart phones, which are far more powerful devices than the cell phones of even a decade ago, there is far greater potential for driver distraction, with email, social media, and videos available.

According to NHTSA, the best way to end distracted driving is to educate all Americans about the danger it poses. NHTSA says that research indicates that even having a hands-free phone conversation can be dangerous. Drivers miss important visual and audio cues that would ordinarily help the driver avoid a crash.

Because passenger car driving falls under the jurisdiction of the states, the U.S. Department of Transportation cannot act to ban distracted driving behaviors. Many states have passed tough laws against texting, talking on a cell phone, and other distractions.

Help for Victims of Distracted Drivers

If you were injured or your car or property was damaged by a distracted driver, you may be entitled to compensation. Please contact the attorneys at Parker Waichman LLP for a free, no obligation case evaluation. To reach the firm, fill out the contact form or call 1-800-YOURLAWYER (1-800-968-7529).


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