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Distracted Driving May Include, Eating, Other Activities

Feb 9, 2017

Eating, Other Activities, While Driving May Be Distracted Driving

Distracted Driving May Include, Eating, Other Activities

Ever since we have been driving there have been problems with distracted driving. With the advent of smart phones, lawmakers in each state have had to manage the dangers associated with distracted driving.

To date, no state specifically bans eating while driving; however, as smart phones have become more and more popular, state lawmakers have had to handle the dangers, sometimes deadly, associated with various activities engaged in by motorists who are driving. Just about every state has some type of a general distracted driving law that may potentially be applied to the dangerous practice of eating while driving, which has been compared to texting while driving.

For drivers who believe that they are able to eat when driving, they should be aware that even the slightest distraction may interrupt attention long enough to cause a deadly crash. Consider that, at 55 miles per hour, a car travels the length of a football field in five seconds. It takes about five seconds to read a text message of just a few words.

Many drivers believe they can take a bite of food or drink coffee without becoming distracted; however, every second counts when driving at high speeds on freeways and eating and drinking may be considered distracted driving. For example, in a case involving a bus driver in New Mexico, as the driver put down the burrito he was eating, he is unaware of the cars stopping in front of him, causing a multi-car collision.

If a driver is found to be texting, using his smart phone, or eating at the time of a crash, liability is easier to prove. Auto accident liability is typically based on the legal theory of negligence and distracted driving laws help to provide the foundation for a negligence claim. If a dispute as to fault exists, a distracted driver is likelier to receive blame or have potential recovery reduced for negligence should it be found that the driver was distracted.

A driver in Georgia was pulled over while eating, according to Atlanta's WSB-TV. The police officer allegedly observed the man eating for two miles. The ticket indicates in the Comments section that the driver was observed eating while driving. The man was cited under Georgia's distracted driving law. Although distracted driving laws differ by state, when a driver is performing a potentially districting task when operating a motor vehicle, the driver may be at risk for being cited for distracted driving.

Instead of punishing the actions, distracted driving laws are meant to prohibit the effect such actions have on a driver's ability to drive safely. Because of this, an array of actions may cause a driver to be considered being distracted when driving, such as eating, driving with a pet on the driver's lap, applying make-up, eating and drinking, and any other activity that removes the driver's attention from driving.

Parker Waichman LLP has decades of experience representing clients who were injured or died in vehicular crashes and in crashes involving distracted driving. The firm continues to offer free legal consultations to individuals with questions about filing a distracted driving lawsuit.

NHTSA Proposes New Guidelines to For Devices and Apps to Limit Distracted Driving

NHTSA Proposes New Guidelines

In late 2016, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) proposed new, voluntary guidelines to the makers and developers of electronic devices, apps, and smartphones to create products that would limit distractions when used by drivers. Specifically, guidelines seek to have mobile and electronic devices developed with features such as having the device linked, or paired with the vehicle infotainment system. Options include implementing a "Driver Mode," which would be a simplified "Airplane Mode" user interface and to disable some mobile phone functionality when the portable device is paired with the vehicle, including playing most videos, texting for messaging or internet browsing, and displaying social media content, the Star Tribune reported.

The NHTSA believes pairing and "Driver Mode" features will reduce the potential for driver distraction by minimizing the amount of time a driver's eyes are away from the road while enabling full device functionality when used at other times. The Consumerist notes that pairing should block the driver's ability to play videos, view photos, read or send text messages, browse the internet, or read books and other publications.

This NHTSA proposal is the agency's second and followed a proposal concerning devices or systems built into vehicles when manufactured. The new proposal, instead, seeks to have electronics developers such as Apple, Samsung, and others reduce device functionality when a vehicle is in motion, The Consumerist explained. According to the NHTSA, crashes have significantly increased with the rise of Pokémon Go and SnapChat's miles-per-hour filter when driving.

The attention surrounding distracted driving has been increasing after United States highway deaths rose to 35,092 in 2015, the largest one-year increase since 1966, according to the Department of Transportation (DOT). The DOT attributed the 7.2 percent rise to a variety of issues including, in part, drivers operating vehicles while intoxicated, speeding, and driving when distracted, according to the Star Tribune. NHTSA data reveals that about 10 percent of 2015 fatal crashes involved at least one distracted driver, leading to 3,477 deaths. Distracted driving was the culprit in 16 percent of the over 5.6 million crashes in 2014, the most recent year for which this data is available, according to the NHTSA. Of the 967,000 distraction crashes in 2014, seven percent involved use of a cell phone and led to about 33,000 injuries.

Senator Amy Klobuchar (Democrat-Minnesota) has fought to end distracted driving and applauded the NHTSA proposed guidelines. "I have met with families across Minnesota that have lost loved ones when a driver took his or her eyes off the road, and their heartbreaking stories remind us that stopping distracted driving is a matter of life and death," she said. "Smartphone manufacturers and app developers have a role to play in addressing the spike in distracted driving, and I hope the proposed voluntary guidelines will help move this conversation forward and reinforce the message that no text, tweet, or snap is worth dying for," she said, according to the Star Tribune.

Following a lawsuit filed against Apple seeking to recover damages for the wrongful death of a five-year-old over an auto accident caused by a driver engaged in FaceTime, a class action lawsuit has been filed against Apple over allegations that Apple prioritized profits over consumer and public safety. In the new case against, the driver was rear-ended by a driver who was texting on an iPhone. The class action lawsuit seeks to hold Apple accountable for not implementing a driver "lock-out" feature. Apple holds a patent, but did not implement, this patent. The driver lock out feature refers to an Apple patent that detects when a person is driving, preventing the driver from using certain device features. The class action lawsuit seeks to stop Apple from continuing to sell iPhones without a driver lock-out mode and asks the court to force Apple to issue an update on existing phones. Manufacturers do have a duty to warn consumers about the dangers of their products and neglecting to issue adequate warnings may be an issue.

Filing a Distracted Driving Lawsuit

If you or someone you know is interested in filing a distracted driving lawsuit, contact one of our personal injury lawyers today. Parker Waichman offers free, no-obligation case evaluations. For more information, call 1-800-YOURLAWYER (1-800-968-7529).

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